Irish border ‘not comparable’ to Gibraltar, Dastis says
Any post-Brexit border arrangements between Ireland and Northern Ireland cannot be used as a template for Gibraltar’s border with Spain, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said this week.
The UK and Ireland have made it clear that they want to avoid a return to a hard border with Northern Ireland and have pledged to work together to find a solution.
They are concerned not just about the potential to undermine the fragile peace process, but also about the impact on communities whose social and economic wellbeing spans both sides of the border.
The Northern Ireland/Ireland border and the one between Gibraltar and Spain will be the UK’s only land borders with the EU after Brexit.
Sr Dastis indicated that Spain and other EU members, with an eye on the Good Friday peace agreement, might consider special arrangements at the Irish border.
“I don’t know what Ireland will ask for once the notification [under Article 50] is made,” Sr Dastis told reporters in Brussels earlier this week.
“Northern Ireland is a specific case. If they ask for special things, we will examine it.”
“It is true that there is an international agreement which was welcomed at the time by the European Union.”
But he insisted that different circumstances applied to Gibraltar.
“My impression is that the two cases are not comparable,” he said.
“I don’t think one can act as an example for the other.”
Both the UK and Gibraltar governments have highlighted the importance of ensuring continued free flow of people and goods at the border after Brexit.
A free-flowing border is seen as vital not just to the Rock’s economy but to the Campo de Gibraltar’s too, in particular La Linea.
Both the UK and Spain have urged good will from Spain in order to find practical solutions of benefit to communities on either side of the frontier fence.
While the EU will requires tighter controls at what, in effect, will be an external Schengen border, the bloc’s rules offer a degree of flexibility.
But Sr Dastis stopped short of indicating what approach Spain would take toward border controls after Brexit.
Asked by a reporter what Spain’s red lines would be when it came to discussing Gibraltar, the Spanish minister was guarded.
“Let’s see what is placed on the table,” he said.