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Brexit

Spain’s Foreign Minister says negotiators have ‘a duty’ to agree a deal on Gib frontier mobility

Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

Spain’s Foreign Minister said negotiators have a “duty” to agree a deal that ensures cross-border fluidity and protects citizens of Gibraltar and Spain.

Arancha Gonzalez Laya told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday that without a deal for Gibraltar, the Rock’s border with Spain would become an external border of the European Union and Spain “wants to avoid that”.

She was speaking just hours before London and Brussels agreed on Sunday to more talks on an elusive UK/EU trade agreement.

The two sides are still talking, even though they have a long way to go to avert a turbulent 'no deal' exit for Britain and Gibraltar from the EU’s orbit at the end of the month.

“This is something that worries us because the Gibraltarian citizens are friends of Spain,” Mrs Gonzalez said on the prospect of no deal.

“We know that we disagree on a major issue, which is sovereignty, there is a disagreement between the U.K. and Spain on sovereignty over Gibraltar. This is not going to change.”

“But my sense is that our duty is to find a deal that would help us build this area of shared prosperity around Gibraltar, caring for our citizens, caring for our workers, caring for our enterprises.”

“This is why Spain has shown big interest and we've worked very hard to reach an agreement with the UK as regards mobility in and around the area of Gibraltar out of respect for our citizens.”

“Because what we know [is] that come 1st of January, without an agreement, the border, the external border of the European Union will be in Gibraltar and we want to avoid that.”

“So this is why Spain has put every energy into this agreement.”

“We hope we can still reach it because we know what it will mean for citizens in Gibraltar and in Spain and because we care about them, we want to make sure this doesn't happen.”

WIDER NEGOTIATIONS

Reflecting on the impasse in the talks between the UK and the EU for a wider trade deal, Mrs Gonzalez said a no-deal outcome should be avoided “at all costs”.

She said a no-deal Brexit in the current circumstances would be “extremely negative” for the economies of both the UK and the EU.

“And if you go by what economists are saying, and there is plenty of literature on that, the UK would suffer even more than the European Union,” she said.

“We both will suffer, more on the UK side, which I think is something we should try to avoid at all costs.”
Mrs Gonzalez said she could not understand why fisheries had proved such a sticking point in the talks.

The talks are reportedly logjammed over a proposal from the EU for fishing rights in UK waters to continue unchanged for European trawlers for a decade.

“I just don’t understand why we cannot agree to agree on fishing,” she said.

“Fishing in the UK is 6,000 vessels employing 12,000 workers – that’s the magnitude of the problem, so I have difficulties understanding why we cannot agree to a landing zone on this.”

Asked about the decision to deploy four Royal Navy boats to patrol UK waters in the event of no-deal, she added: “I think this is all for gallery, I don’t think this is serious – and by the way I don’t think this is needed.”

“I think what would be more responsible is to sit down and agree what kind of relationship does the UK want with the European Union on fishing, again understanding that on this, like on the rest (of the issues), there are things for the UK to win, things for the EU to win – we just have to find this middle point.”