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Negotiators resume formal treaty talks on Thursday

Photo by Eyleen Gomez.

Negotiators working to agree a UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations with the bloc will meet again in London this week for the 12th formal round of talks.

The meeting between officials from the UK – with Gibraltar – and the European Commission will take place on Thursday and Friday, a Commission official told the Chronicle.

Although the London meeting is a formal round of negotiation, contact between all parties is constant and fluid and there have been other meetings in recent days.

Last week, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and his negotiating team travelled to London for talks on the ongoing negotiation.

And earlier this week, Mr Picardo and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia were in Madrid for further discussions, accompanied by Attorney General Michael Llamas.

“These discussions are ongoing between different parties and at different levels,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement, adding no details as to the nature or participants in the meetings.

Mr Llamas will fly from Madrid to London to attend the formal round of talks on Thursday and Friday.

Mr Picardo and Dr Garcia will connect to the meeting virtually.

“The Government remains fully committed to arrive at a positive, safe and secure treaty for Gibraltar and is very optimistic that such a treaty will be agreed,” No.6 added in the statement.

The latest round of talks in London comes against the backdrop of deep uncertainty on either side of the border about the treaty negotiations and wide expectation that a deal acceptable to all parties can be reached.

Last week, the Cross Frontier Group – which brings together unions and business organisations from both sides of the border - called on the negotiating parties reach an agreement swiftly that would end that uncertainty.

The plea was set out in an open letter addressed to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission.

“The current state of affairs on this matter and the uncertainty caused by the contradictory news emanating from the negotiating process are subjecting the citizens of our area to stress, that we believe should be stopped immediately, through an agreement that allows for the promised and longed-for reality of ‘Shared Prosperity’ and the dismantling of the border crossing for citizens and goods,” the group said in the letter.

“The entities that make up this Cross Frontier Group are firmly convinced that any scenario without an agreement would be devastating for the interests of the citizens of the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar, and would mean a huge political failure for those involved in the process for which they will have to take responsibility.”

In the run-up to Christmas after the 11th round of talks, the UK, the EU, Spain and Gibraltar reaffirmed their commitment to the negotiation, even while holding back on detail or setting out any tangible progress.

They made clear that complex areas of disagreement remain, but the message was one of common purpose toward the shared goal of reaching agreement.

All sides have said too that they will negotiate for as long as it takes and that there is no deadline.

But with general elections due this year in both Spain and Gibraltar, there is a sense of urgency to making progress, with Mr Albares stating on several occasions recently that the negotiation “cannot go on eternally”.

Last week however, Mr Albares signalled progress and told the Reuters news agency that “we are very close to the deal”.

And earlier this week, the Spanish Foreign Minister was in Brussels for an EU meeting and told reporters he had discussed the Gibraltar negotiation with Michael Martin, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, although he added no detail.

He said he and Mr Martin had “...exchanged points of view on the agreement on Gibraltar and on the Northern Ireland protocol...”

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo had also indicated progress in statements to GBC last week after his discussions in London.

“I think that we are now converging on where the landing points for all of those particularly concerning issues are,” he said at the time.

But he cautioned too that the discussion touched on issues that were “very, very complex” in order to ensure a deal that was acceptable to all sides.

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