When it comes to Brexit, everyone looks at poker between Brussels and London. The small foreign territory of Gibraltar is exploring its way. The envisaged solution may trouble Brexit hardliners.
The exclusion of Great Britain from the European Union is also a huge problem for Gibraltar at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, 95.9 percent of residents voted to remain in the European Union. But: caught, hung.
British overseas territory – only slightly larger than the northwest Höllig Hoog with 6.8 square kilometers – was terminated in late January in conjunction with the United Kingdom. In the negotiations between London and Brussels, rather than the British side’s nationalist rhetoric, quiet tones prevail in parallel negotiations with Gibraltar.
Fear of waiting for hours at the border
The 2016 vote was not a declaration of love for the European Union, it is believed by Fabian Picardo, Prime Minister of Gibraltar. “It was an overwhelming vote for the opening of the border with Spain,” he told radio station SER. The range is only 1.8 kilometers long, with a single crossing. The 33,000 residents of Gibraltar, one of Europe’s wealthiest, like the Spaniards, know what it would mean if the border became more impregnable on 1 January. If there is no agreement between Brussels and London, Gibraltar does not want to change any control until July – and expects Spain to do the same.
View of Gibraltar’s reef: A large number of the population voted against Brexit. (Source: John Nazca / Reuters)
Every day, 15,000 people cross the border to go to Gibraltar in the morning to go to work and return in the evening. So far all they have to do is show their identity card and they wave. In addition, there are about seven million tourists per year without Corona. If everyone is to suddenly introduce a passport, which needs to be stamped on the new EU external border, there is a possibility of waiting for up to four hours.
“Never seen sympathy”
The government in Madrid is aware of what this would mean for the impoverished region north of Gibraltar. Unemployment in the border town of La Linea is already 35 percent. Foreign Secretary Archana Gonzalela said, “It is a joint duty for the UK and Spain to create a region of prosperity.” The non-party politician set aside the question of sovereignty over Gibraltar, which Spain was to cede to Great Britain with the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 and has since sought it back. It is about the well being of the people.
A British Airways aircraft flies to Gibraltar Airport: many residents feel a strong connection to the state, but do not want to lose the open border with Spain. (Source: John Nazca / Reuters)
For this – and because of his advocacy of being accepted into the Schengen area of Gibraltar, where there is virtually no identity check at the borders – Laia has gained a lot of recognition at Effenfelsen. “She has shown a sensibility for Gibraltar that has never been seen before,” says Picardo, who also supports the Schengen idea. The people on the monkey rock actually feel very British and doubt their big neighbors.
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It is not yet clear whether British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will agree to include Gibraltar in the Schengen area. Government circles were told, “Gibraltar and London are marching in the same direction.” The conversation was in full swing. Laia is hoping for an early settlement with the British.
In order to save not only the movement of people, but also the movement of goods, there are also plans that foreign territories also join the Federation of European Union. But it is still some other horizon, they say in Gibraltar. According to government circles, technically this would not be a major problem: Gibraltar already has border controls for people and goods at its airport and port. Thus, Brexit, which would take Great Britain out of the European Union, could have the opposite effect in Gibraltar: foreign territory would move closer to the European Union in a way.