WITH Brexit talks entering their advanced stages, the European Commission (EC) has made clear its desire for a deal over Gibraltar to be reached in time.
Up until now the issue has been dealt with largely between Spain and the United Kingdom, but the Commission is becoming more involved in order to finalise an agreement for the British Overseas Territory.
Both Madrid and London are seeking to protect the rights of their citizens i.e. Gibraltans who work in Spain and Spaniards who work in the British territory, even if the UK ends up with a no-deal Brexit.
Last week the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, held a meeting in Brussels with British representatives over the issue and his deputy, Sabine Weyand, confirmed the bloc’s complete support for Spain.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is also exploring ways to reduce the wealth gap between inhabitants of Gibraltar and neighboring Campo de Gibraltar, in view of the latter’s high rates of unemployment and poverty.
He also wants to see lower business tax rates in Gibraltar, stronger environmental laws and a tobacco smuggling clampdown.
Negotiators on all sides are planning a deal that will be annexed to the overall Brexit agreement, as well as a memorandum of understanding on bilateral issues.
In a recent speech to the UN which covered global challenges including security, climate change and migration, Sanchez expressed his wish for a relationship that “creates prosperity and benefits for all of the region, the Gibraltarians and obviously the wider area of the Campo de Gibraltar.”