Liz Truss – 2021 Statement on the UK’s Relationship with Gibraltar

The statement made by Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 18 October 2021.

On 31 December 2020, the UK Government, together with the Government of Gibraltar, agreed a political framework with the Kingdom of Spain on how a future agreement between the UK and the European Union (EU) in respect of Gibraltar would function in the interests of all parties.

This represented the first stage of the two-part process whereby the EU would examine a request from Spain, in agreement with the UK, to initiate the procedure for the negotiation of a separate UK-EU agreement in respect of Gibraltar.

On 5 October 2021, the EU concluded its internal processes necessary to begin the UK-EU negotiations. While the EU mandate has not been published we understand it has been amended from the Commission’s draft mandate published on 20 July 2021. Importantly it now references the role of the European Border and Coastguard Agency (Frontex) in delivering the fluid movement of people between Gibraltar and the Schengen area. Both the UK Government and Government of Gibraltar have been clear that the operation of frontline Schengen external border checks on the territory of Gibraltar by Spanish officials would not be acceptable.

There remain, however, a number of areas where the opening EU position directly conflicts with the political framework agreed between the UK and Spain. These issues will need to be addressed in the UK-EU negotiations to ensure that the pragmatic and careful balance of the political framework is maintained. The UK is committed to working constructively to address these issues with the objective of concluding a treaty in line with the political framework. Formal negotiations began in Brussels on 11 October and further detailed conversations will follow in the coming weeks.

The UK Government continue to work side-by-side with the Government of Gibraltar. We agreed our joint approach to negotiations at the UK-Gibraltar Joint Ministerial Council held in Gibraltar on 29 March 2021. At the core is a shared aim to secure future prosperity for Gibraltar and the surrounding region. This can be delivered through a treaty which brings confidence, legal certainty and stability to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Gibraltar and neighbouring communities.

While fully committed to seeking a treaty based on the political framework, the UK Government and Government of Gibraltar are working closely to ensure robust plans are in place for all eventualities, including if there is no negotiated outcome. Although confident an agreement can be reached, it is only prudent to prepare for all eventualities. The UK will stand fully behind Gibraltar, its people and its economy in any scenario.

We remain steadfast in our support for Gibraltar and will not agree to anything that compromises UK sovereignty.