Negotiators met yesterday, on May 11, to discuss Gibraltar’s future relationship with the European Union. These included UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo. Reports suggest there is optimism on all sides an agreement will be reached between the UK and the EU. But talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol continue to stall amid threats they could fold completely.
In a call today with EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, Ms Truss stressed London will have “no choice but to act” if the EU fails to show “requisite flexibility”.
Critics are particularly frustrated by the requirement for checks on traded goods entering Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK.
Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib told Express.co.uk a failure to get a grip on the talks now could, in fact, lead to the end of the union between Britain and Northern Ireland.
But Brussels is pushing back against UK threats over the triggering of Article 16, with reports suggesting it would be willing to launch a trade war in response.
The bloc would “likely move quickly to launch infringement procedures against the UK and suspend their trade agreement”, according to Bloomberg, on the basis of insider tips.
The picture in Gibraltar is far different.
Mr Picardo said following this week’s meeting: “We all continue to be strongly optimistic that we will be able to conclude a safe and secure agreement between the UK and the EU in relation to Gibraltar for the benefit of all parties, in particular the people of Gibraltar and of the region.
“The positive tenor of the current round of the negotiations this week confirms my own view in this respect.”
Such a upbeat message is almost unheard of in talks relating to Northern Ireland.
Ms Truss also highlighted the UK’s “steadfast” support for Gibraltar.
But now, division over the Protocol risks damaging the positive efforts that have been made over Gibraltar, according to reports.
The Government last year highlighted “the Northern Ireland issue is very, very different”, adding negotiations over Gibraltar are “very, very separate”.
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Whispers from Brussels suggest the EU disagrees.
One “person familiar with the matter” told Bloomberg leaders on the Continent could “halt talks” on the status of Gibraltar if Northern Ireland negotiations fall.
Mr Habib stressed, however, that while talks over the future of Gibraltar may be proceeding smoothly, they are in no way producing positive results for the Rock or the UK.
He warned that “Gibraltar too is being ripped away from the United Kingdom”, adding: “Unless our Government wakes up to that danger it will be subsumed by Spain and the EU without even a murmur.”
The Brexit Watch Chairman highlighted that talks could result in the Brussels bloc possessing a great amount of control over Gibraltar, by including it in the Schengen zone, establishing a “level playing field”, meaning it must “dynamically” adopt EU laws, and enforce upon it a “robust governance mechanism”.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.