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Time running out to find Brexit agreement on Gibraltar, Spain says

Photo by Andre Pain/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Time is running out to find a Brexit agreement over Gibraltar’s future relations with the European Union, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Thursday.

Mrs Gonzalez Laya was speaking as officials in Britain and the EU said talks on a wider UK-EU deal were still snagged on two main issues, fair competition guarantees and fisheries.

Despite the looming deadline of December 31, neither side has shown a willingness to shift enough to make way for any breakthrough.

For Gibraltar, which has been locked in talks for months to hammer out a framework that will protect vital border fluidity, the pressure is also building as the clock ticks.

"Talks between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar continue, but there too time is running out," Mrs Gonzalez Laya told Spanish state broadcaster RNE, making no reference to Gibraltar which is also part of the talks.

"We won't stop until the last second, but we expect in this game the active participation of the United Kingdom."

In the wake of her comments, the UK Government said all sides were focused on trying to secure a deal for the Rock’s future.

"The UK and the Government of Gibraltar have held a number of constructive discussions with Spain on this issue," a spokesperson for Britain's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said.

"It is clearly in all parties' interests to find a solution, to ensure ongoing well-being and prosperity in the region."

Earlier this week, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told the House of Lords EU Select Committee that Gibraltar would “stretch every sinew” to secure a deal.

But he made clear too that time was short, even while signalling willingness to continue working even beyond December 31 if necessary.

Mr Picardo said securing a deal for Gibraltar in the absence of a UK-EU agreement would be “devilishly difficult”, though he believed it was possible.

“I do not believe that the administrations in Gibraltar and in Spain would be seeking to do their worst to damage each other in the event that there is no deal,” he said.

“I think, if we reach the stage where we have no deal on the 31st of December, we will do so more in sadness than in anger and because we’ve run out of time, and we will want to continue talking about how we resolve issues.”

“And I think we will also want to ensure that we administratively do everything possible to continue to provide as much of the fluidity as our people need both at a business, commercial and human level as we can without getting in the way of their everyday lives.”

Reuters contributed reporting for this article.