The State Secretary for the EU, Pascual Navarro, yesterday expressed confidence that an agreement will be possible “before the end of the year” between the European Commission and the United Kingdom on Gibraltar’s relations with the EU bloc, a new status that the two parties have been negotiating for two years after Brexit and on which Brussels presented a draft of the complete Treaty in October.
“Everything is already on the table and the negotiation has to be concluded. We must indeed reach an agreement, logically before the end of the year; that is what we are all hoping for”, he told the press in Brussels, on his arrival at a meeting of EU General Affairs at which the EU-27 reviewed the state of relations with the United Kingdom following the change in the British government.
Navarro stressed that “there is no point blocked” in the negotiations between London and Brussels, and that the last round of contacts that took place in Brussels at the end of October allowed the Europeans to present a proposal for an agreement “that is on the table”.
“It is a long and complex text because it affects all aspects of relations with Gibraltar”, said Navarro, who explained that there is still “much to discuss” at a technical level, but that this does not imply a lack of progress towards the final agreement.
“Now the negotiation of the commas is beginning, and that will take a little time, but the proposal has already been sufficiently explained and we are confident that the negotiation will progress quickly”, the State Secretary for the EU reiterated.
Asked about the possibilities of an agreement between now and December, Navarro replied that for the agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union to see the light of day, “practical administrative arrangements” are still needed, which have yet to be defined and which have to do with the role of Frontex in border control of the Gibraltar crossing to Spain, as the EU’s external border.
Community sources consulted by Europa Press indicate Brussels’ willingness to speed up the pace of negotiations with the aim of finding “solutions” to the main obstacles “by the end of the year”. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for the end of November, beginning of December, although a precise date has not yet been set.
This has been one of the most sensitive points for both sides since the start of the negotiations, after an interim regime agreed between London and Madrid following Brexit was aimed at the presence of Frontex agents to control Gibraltar’s airport, a request from the British, who would see the presence of Spanish agents on the border as an attack on their sovereignty.
This solution was not viewed favourably by the rest of the European partners, who included in the final mandate given to Brussels to negotiate with London on the status of Gibraltar the precision that such agents of the European border agency should be under the responsibility of the Spanish authorities, something that did not please the British side.
The way in which this balance between the presence of Frontex and the guardianship of the Spanish authorities will be articulated is one of the stumbling blocks that remain open after a dozen rounds of negotiations and which the parties are seeking to resolve, according to several sources familiar with the talks consulted with Europa Press.