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Spain's Josep Borrell optimistic of Brexit deal 'with Gibraltar'

There will be no Brexit deal without agreement on Gibraltar, Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said yesterday, adding that the Rock’s future relationship with the EU is being negotiated “with Gibraltar”.

Mr Borrell was responding to a question on Gibraltar after addressing a breakfast meeting of the Foro Nueva Economia in Madrid a day after meeting the EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, for wide-ranging discussions on Brexit that focused in large part on Gibraltar.

He said the Rock's future outside the EU was being negotiated "between the United Kingdom and Spain" without direct EU involvement, but made clear too that Gibraltar was part of those discussions.

“The EU is negotiating, through Mr Barnier, the conditions of the UK’s withdrawal and has stated that in order for the withdrawal agreement to be applied to Gibraltar, this must be through a bilateral agreement between Spain and Gibraltar that we are negotiating,” Mr Borrell said.

“Even though [Mr Barnier] is not part of that negotiation, he is following it closely and he knows that without agreement on this, there will be no agreement on Brexit.”

“As the Brexit negotiator, he is the first one to be interested in us reaching an agreement.”

“That’s what we’re working on and I think we can be optimistic…and I believe we are very close to a solution for the withdrawal agreement.”

Mr Borrell was speaking just hours ahead of a meeting with the mayors of the seven municipalities in the Campo de Gibraltar, who had travelled to Madrid to impress on the minister the need for urgent measures to mitigate the potential negative impact of Brexit on their communities.

Addressing the breakfast forum, Mr Borrell repeated the Spanish Government’s position on Brexit and sovereignty, insisting that Spain would not seek to exploit Brexit to push its territorial aspirations over the Rock.

“What we are negotiating is not the return of Gibraltar to Spanish sovereignty, or the sharing of that sovereignty, but the conditions under which the withdrawal agreement can be applied to the territory of Gibraltar on very specific issues…” he said.

“The President of the Government [of Spain] told Mr Barnier yesterday that Spain’s goal is that the agreement with Gibraltar should not be the last obstacle on the road but rather the first step toward the withdrawal agreement.”

“In other words, that we should not get to the end and be in agreement on everything except Gibraltar, but that the agreement on Gibraltar should be the first step toward the final Brexit agreement.”

Mr Borrell’s comments at the breakfast forum were last night welcomed by the Gibraltar Government, which has repeatedly insisted that Gibraltar is part of the UK’s wider withdrawal negotiations with the EU and that the Gibraltar Government has been closely involved in any aspect of the talks directly related to the Rock.

“Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar has been clear from the time of my Ministerial Statement in March about the discrete contact we were having with Spain,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

“We have also been clear in stating that there was no separate bilateral process in relation to Gibraltar.”

“Mr Borrell has simply confirmed our oft stated position.”

“Unfortunately, some prefer to hear it from the Spanish Foreign Minister than from the Chief Minister of Gibraltar.”

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