Keir Starmer discusses Brexit and a second referendum
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The Chief Minister of Gibraltar has said the territory will have an “uncomfortable” experience if the UK and, EU and Spain cannot finally agree on a post-Brexit arrangement. Fabian Picardo warned Gibraltarians that a transition phase may be necessary, which could mean some difficulties for the Rock.
In his New Year’s speech, he said: “The agreement may be uncomfortable at first in some areas.
“Like joining the European Union, I may have been initially uncomfortable in 1972. But a ‘no deal’ would also be very uncomfortable.”
Mr Picardo added that he and his colleagues are working “day and night” to reach a deal, but warned it will not be an easy dispute to resolve.
He continued: “What we are negotiating is hugely complex… From product labelling to the taxation of goods, the final treaty is likely to be hundreds of pages long.
“We have to get every aspect right to ensure that there are no negative consequences for our economy or our independence.”
Gibraltar’s future has been plagued by uncertainty since the moment the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.
The British overseas territory shares a land border with Spain, an EU member, thus complicating the Brexit negotiations.
The Brexit withdrawal agreement which was signed at the end of 2020 did not settle the Gibraltar dispute, but governments in Madrid and London agreed to pursue an arrangement which would incorporate the Rock into the EU Schengen area.
This would preserve the freedom of movement of Gibraltarians into Spain, protecting jobs and businesses in the region.
But this had led to one of the major sticking points preventing a deal from being agreed upon.
Spain and the UK disagree on who should be responsible for passport checks on travellers who arrive at the airport in Gibraltar.
Spain says its police should take on the responsibility, but the UK instead wants EU border agency Frontex to check the passports.
Gibraltar has also been at the centre of a 300-year-long dispute between the UK and Spain.
Madrid ceded Gibraltar to Britain back in 1713, but has looked to reclaim the territory since then.
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Recently, Spanish foreign minister José Manuel Albare tried to calm talk of a ‘no deal scenario’ for Gibraltar.
But, he also said: “The government of Spain and the EU, which is ultimately the signatory on the agreement with the UK, are ready for any scenario.
“Obviously we cannot be in this situation forever. The United Kingdom has to say clearly if it wants this agreement, which is global and touches all aspects of what has to be the relationship between Spain and the United Kingdom regarding Gibraltar, or if it does not want it.”
Gibraltarians are clearly concerned about where talks could be headed, however. In November, many of the territory’s departments and agencies simulated a scenario in which the UK, the EU and Spain could not reach a deal.
Joseph Garcia, Gibraltar’s deputy chief minister, said in a statement at the time: “The government remains firmly committed to the negotiation of a treaty but has a duty to prepare for no treaty at the same time.
“This will be a different world where our interactions with Spain and with the EU will be more cumbersome, bureaucratic and time-consuming than anything we have known before.”
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