The European Union and the United Kingdom are “close” to a post-Brexit agreement

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Prolonged discussions in Brussels failed to reach an agreement after long divisions over border checks and airport management.

High-level political discussions aimed at concluding a deal on post-Brexit border and transit arrangements for Gibraltar ended without an agreement in Brussels on Thursday.

The self-governing British territory is no longer part of the EU with the UK’s formal exit from the bloc in 2020, but has been excluded from the trade and cooperation agreement that defined the relationship between the EU and the UK after Brexit.

Thursday’s meeting between Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albarez, Gibraltar’s Prime Minister Fabian Picardo, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and European Commission Vice President Maros Cefovic was the second of its kind in a month.

Talks have intensified recently, with the European Union hoping to reach a deal that would tie up the latest loose end of Brexit in time for the European elections in June, the first since the UK’s formal departure from the European Union.

Sifovic told reporters that Thursday’s discussions “took place in a constructive atmosphere” with “additional breakthroughs” in areas of possible future agreement.

The British Foreign Office said in a statement, “All parties are reassured that the agreement is approaching and will work closely and quickly on the outstanding areas towards a comprehensive agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.”

Sivovic also said that the technical teams will start developing new proposals based on the ideas presented at the meeting as soon as tomorrow.

The Vice-President of the European Commission added: “Today’s meeting confirmed our shared commitment to bringing confidence, legal certainty and stability to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Campo de Gibraltar.”

But Ševčović also acknowledged the remaining sticking points in the negotiations, which he declined to detail.

Tarek mountain

Gibraltar, also known as the Rock, is located at the southern tip of Spain and has historically been the subject of friction with the United Kingdom, which zealously defends its sovereignty over the territory. Madrid claims sovereignty over parts of Gibraltar and has called for the “decolonization” of the territory.

These tensions were revived following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, a move that Gibraltar’s Prime Minister Picardo himself described as an “existential threat” to the territory’s economy, and raised fears of a hard border with customs and passport checks between Gibraltar and neighboring Spain.

96% of Gibraltar’s population voted against Brexit.

Talks have stalled in recent years due to disagreements between the UK and Spain over how to manage the border between Gibraltar and Spain, and arrangements for Gibraltar Airport, which is used by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and for commercial flights.

Spain called on Spanish or European border officials to be stationed at the airport. It also wants Schengen border checks for arrivals at the airport to avoid checks at the border between Spain and Gibraltar.

But these proposals cross the UK’s red lines. Cameron has faced increasing pressure from the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee, which recently accused him of “allowing the pendulum to swing too far in the EU’s direction” meaning Gibraltar would become a British overseas territory “in name only”.

All parties confirm that they will remain in close contact, with Šivović saying that he hopes to reach an agreement as soon as possible.