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‘Too soon to tell’ if Spain will seek to block Gibraltar from Brexit transition, Borrell says

Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Spain’s Foreign Minister said Sunday that “it’s too soon to tell” whether Madrid will seek to block Gibraltar’s inclusion in any Brexit transition arrangements between the UK and the EU.

Speaking to El Pais, Josep Borrell said Spain’s main focus was the impact of Brexit on the economic development of the Campo de Gibraltar, suggesting Gibraltar had a 'parasitic' relationship with its Spanish neighbour.

As he has done on previous occasions, he signalled too that Spain would not use Brexit to push its sovereignty aspirations over the Rock.

“For us the key thing is the impact on the economic development of the Campo de Gibraltar,” he reportedly said, underlining areas of interest to Spain including the airport, smuggling, taxation and fishing.

“The issues of sovereignty were important for some ex-Foreign Minister, but this is the moment to end the underdevelopment of the Campo de Gibraltar, and prevent it becoming fertile ground for drug trafficking next to a territory that has the third-highest GDP per capita in the world.”

“That cannot be. Someone is parasitising someone.”

The EU’s negotiating guidelines state that transition arrangements can only be extended to Gibraltar after prior agreement between Spain and the UK.

Both the UK and Gibraltar reject that position and insist the Rock must be covered by the Brexit deal.

But all sides are engaged in discreet discussions to mitigate the practical impact of Gibraltar’s withdrawal from the EU alongside the UK, and to map out the Rock’s post-Brexit relationship with Spain and the bloc.

The aim is to find common ground that respects red lines while unlocking opportunities for economic development that will benefit communities on either side of the border.

On Friday, the UK’s ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, told Spanish reporters that the UK Government was in daily contact with the Gibraltar Government to ensure “Brexit turns out well for the Gibraltarians”.

He signalled too London’s continued commitment to working with the governments of Gibraltar and Spain to avoid any negative impact on citizens and turn it instead into an opportunity to generate prosperity for the Rock and the Campo.

Mr Manley highlighted the importance of “fluidity at the border” and said the aim was to find “how we can make the best of the process of withdrawal to promote the prosperity and security of all the area in the interest of all citizens, be they Spanish, Gibraltarians or other Europeans who live in Spain and work in Gibraltar.”

“The important thing is that we are all working for the interests of all the citizens in area of Gibraltar.”

“We don’t want there to be any problems for the Spanish or other Europeans who want to work in Gibraltar, or for the Gibraltarians who want to enjoy the Campo de Gibraltar and go shopping and dining there.”

Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina

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