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Treaty negotiators ‘still far’ from agreement, Commission official says

Negotiators working on a UK-EU treaty for the Rock’s post-Brexit relations with the bloc are still “far” from reaching agreement, a senior European Commision official told the European Parliament last week.

Stefan Fuehring, the Head of Unit at the Commission for the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, was addressing the Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly.

During a session that focused mainly on Northern Ireland, he was quizzed on progress with the Gibraltar negotiation by José Millán Mon, an MEP from the Partido Popular.

“We’re still negotiating,” Mr Fuehring said.

“In general it’s quite constructive negotiations.”

“There is a genuine interest to find a solution.”

“But it is also very complicated.”
“Let’s remember that in Gibraltar, contrary to what happens in Northern Ireland, we’re not just talking about goods but also controls of people.”

“That’s a problem we didn’t have in Northern Ireland, but we have with Gibraltar.”

“As such, the negotiations are very complex and we are far from being able to say that we’ve achieved the goal.”

Mr Fuehring, whose comments were first reported by GBC, was speaking on Thursday, a day after the fifth round of talks concluded in Brussels.

Last week, the Gibraltar Government signalled “scope for progress” despite “complex and difficult” matters left to resolve, adding the talks unfolded “in a friendly and constructive manner”.

A further round of negotiations is scheduled for the coming weeks.

“The Government remains firmly committed to secure a treaty based on the political framework agreed together with the United Kingdom and Spain on 31 December 2020,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“In the meantime, and as has happened so far, there will be ongoing engagement with Spain at different levels.”

The negotiators hope to reach an agreement by March allowing a common travel area between Gibraltar and the Schengen zone.

Spain, as neighbouring country, would take responsibility on behalf of the EU for Schengen immigration checks in Gibraltar, but Frontex officers would carry out the actual physical controls on the ground, at least for the first four years.

There is also the possibility of a bespoke arrangement on customs.

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