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GIBRALTAR

Spain demands Brexit brings end to Gibraltar’s ‘unfair competition’

A leaked report on Spain’s position regarding Brexit negotiations has revealed that Spain will demand an end to Gibraltar’s ‘privileged position’ that has “in practice turned it into a tax haven”.

Spain demands Brexit brings end to Gibraltar’s 'unfair competition'
Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly against Brexit. Photo: AFP

Spain’s harsh stance over Gibraltar was included in a report drawn up by Spain’s foreign minister and revealed by Spanish daily newspaper El Pais on Monday.

The report appeared to outline what Spain sees as non-negotiable terms ahead of Brexit talks including the issue of sovereignty claims over the Rock.

“Spain cannot accept for the EU to negotiate with the United Kingdom a relationship that is not compatible with Spain’s position on territorial claims, and that doesn’t respect Spanish interests, those of the people of the Campo de Gibraltar [the Spanish territory adjacent to the Rock] and that [doesn’t] prevent a situation of unfair competition with Spanish territory.”

The report seemed to contradict the statement made by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the weekend, one day after European Union leaders met to discuss Brexit.

“There are no red lines or lines of any other colour” on Gibraltar, Rajoy said at a news conference after 27 European Union leaders met without Britain to adopt their negotiating position for Brexit talks.  

READ MORE:  Spain says no Gibraltar ‘red lines’ in Brexit

The EU 27 guidelines have effectively handed Madrid the power of veto over Gibraltar.

They state that “no agreement” after Brexit between the EU and Britain could apply to Gibraltar without a bilateral agreement between Madrid and London.

Britain has expressed alarm over the clause and British Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted she will “never” allow Gibraltar to slip from British control.

According to El Pais, the report states that Spain was forced to accept conditions over Gibraltar when it joined the EU in 1986 but has since found that Gibraltar’s statute “has led to a situation of unjustified privilege.”

That although it enjoys EU freedoms such as movement of people, goods, services and capital, it does not form part of the customs union and has its own set of laws outside the jurisdiction of Britain.

“It has developed its own regime which is extremely permissive in relation to tax, customs and business creation, which in practice has turned it into a tax haven,” states the report entitled Negotiations on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

However, the report indictated that on matters not related to Gibraltar, Spain was firmly in favour of keeping the status quo as much as possible post-Brexit.

In terms of the rights of Britons resident in Spain (and those Spaniards living in the UK), the report urged a solution that would maintain their existing rights.

“Spain believes the best solution would be to stick as close as possible to the letter or spirit of the current legislation,” says the report,

 

 

 

 

BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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