The European Commission released its proposal Tuesday to launch post-Brexit negotiations with the U.K. over Gibraltar, Britain’s overseas territory attached to the Spanish mainland.
Gibraltar was not included in the scope of the EU-U.K. trade agreement. Just before the end of the Brexit transition period last year, Spain and the U.K. struck a preliminary, 11th-hour deal to avoid a hard border between Gibraltar and Spain by allowing the British territory to become part of the Schengen passport-free area with the sponsorship of Madrid.
The Commission’s mandate includes proposals to “remove physical checks and controls on persons and goods at the land border between Spain and Gibraltar, while ensuring the integrity of the Schengen area and the Single Market,” according to the Commission. The EU wants London to agree to a customs union between Gibraltar and the EU by aligning goods taxation with that of Spain, complete with “appropriate checks and controls in Gibraltar,” the mandate says.
The EU executive also wants a future deal to include “asylum, returns, visas, residence permits, and operational police cooperation and information exchange.”
“This is a detailed mandate, which aims to have a positive impact for those living and working on either side of the border between Spain and Gibraltar, while protecting the integrity of the Schengen Area and the Single Market,” said Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, the EU’s point-person on post-Brexit talks, in a statement.
The Council must still sign off on the mandate before the EU can launch negotiations with the U.K.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab swiftly rejected the Commission’s proposal, saying in a statement that it “directly conflicts” with the previously agreed framework and “seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, and cannot form a basis for negotiations.”
“We have consistently showed pragmatism and flexibility in the search for arrangements that work for all sides, and we are disappointed that this has not been reciprocated,” Raab said. “We urge the EU to think again.”
This article has been updated with reaction from U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
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