Spain ‘will be constructive’ over Gib, Dastis says
Spain will be “constructive” in its approach to Gibraltar once Theresa May triggers Article 50 next week and commences the Brexit process, the country’s Foreign Minister said yesterday, insisting there would be no “drastic” measures at the border.
Alfonso Dastis said the Spanish Government would also focus on protecting the interests of the Campo de Gibraltar as a matter of priority.
But he repeated the Spanish position that Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU must be agreed bilaterally between the UK and Spain.
“I think we are certainly going to have a constructive attitude with Gibraltar because we also have an interest in the prosperity, not so much of Gibraltar, but of the Campo de Gibraltar,” Sr Dastis said in an interview on the state-owned Spanish national radio.
“The [Campo] zone is going to be one of our priorities.”
And in a second interview published today by the Spanish newspaper ABC, Sr Dastis said Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU “need not necessarily” require joint sovereignty.
“We have made a very generous co-sovereignty offer, but two can’t dance if one doesn’t want to,” he said.
“And if the UK doesn’t want to negotiate and the population of Gibraltar prefers make its own way outside the union, then that’s up to them.”
“But if they want, in some way, to maintain a relationship with the EU, Spain will make good on its interests.”
Sr Dastis said that outside the EU, Gibraltar’s relationship with Spain would be one of a third country.
But he suggested that this would not have a major impact on the border, which would remain open.
“The fence would remain as an external frontier, as it is now, because as a matter of fact they are not part of the Customs union,” he told ABC.
“But because of the relationship with the Campo de Gibraltar, we don’t have any intention to take any type of drastic measures, such as closing the fence.”
Sr Dastis was speaking a day after his meeting with Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, to discuss a range of issues relating to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Spain has stressed the need for the EU’s 27 other members to maintain a joint position in the negotiations with the UK, highlighting the rights of EU and UK citizens, together with the divorce bill, as key priorities.
Sr Dastis told Radio Nacional de España that Spain’s approach to Brexit and Gibraltar was “very simple” and hinged on the premise that once the UK left the bloc, so too did Gibraltar.
“From there on, if the UK in future wants, within the framework of its future relations with the EU, for that framework to also apply to Gibraltar with whatever modalities have to be negotiated, well that is something that has to be the subject of an agreement between the UK and Spain,” he said. “Just as when we joined in 1986, alongside the accession agreement there was an agreement between the UK and Spain relating to Gibraltar’s situation.”
The Spanish minister added that a bilateral discussion about Gibraltar between the UK and Spain “need not muddy” the wider Brexit negotiation.
“We will have to see, but what must be clear – and I think our partners, the institutions and the UK are clear on this – is that this is a particular problem that affects Spain and as such, Spain must be heard,” he said.
He also added that the discussion about Gibraltar should take place either before the wider talks or at the same time.
“If the aim is for the future relationship between the UK and the EU to, in some way, be applied to Gibraltar, then it is logical for the [bilateral negotiation] to be conducted beforehand or simultaneously,” he said.
During the interview, Sr Dastis noted that Gibraltar was currently subject to EU law except for in certain areas such as the EU customs union and VAT.
He said the Rock’s future relationship with the EU “…cannot be the same [as it is now] because the UK itself is not going to be part of the single market, so it would be difficult for Gibraltar to aspire to having a closer relationship.”
“But I wouldn’t rule it out, though in such a scenario we would be the principal player,” he added.
He described Spain’s joint sovereignty proposal as “very generous” but acknowledged that it had received a negative response in Gibraltar