Spain strikes deal with Britain over Gibraltar

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday his government would back a Brexit deal with Britain after reaching an agreement over Gibraltar.

Spain strikes deal with Britain over Gibraltar
Spanish Prime Minister made his announcement in a televised address. Photo: Stringer/AFP
Sanchez had warned he could boycott a special EU summit on Brexit on Sunday if London and Brussels did not confirm his country's right to veto over any future accord on ties with Gibraltar.
“I have just announced to the King of Spain that we have an agreement on Gibraltar,” Sanchez said in a televised address. “Spain… will vote in favour of Brexit.”
In his address, Sanchez claimed the compromise was a “historic text” that gave Spain a “triple protection” over the status of the peninsular. 
He claimed that the agreement made clear that the British overseas territory would be excluded from UK-EU negotiations on the future relationship, leaving its future to be negotiated in bilateral talks between Madrid and London. 
According to the El Mundo newspaper, the Spanish government views the “triple guarantee” arrangement proposed as “sufficient”, even if it is neither “ideal”, not the veto which the country had originally demanded. 
The “triple guarantee” consists of a letter from both the President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, together with two declarations, one from the remaining 27 EU member states and the other from the UK. 
The EU declaration states that “after the United Kingdom leaves the Union, Gibraltar will not be included in the territorial scope of the agreements that are closed between the EU and the United Kingdom”. 
In a letter signed by the British ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, the UK confirmed that Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement “imposes no obligations regarding the territorial scope” of agreements on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. 
Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's Chief Minister, said in a press release that he aimed to ensure that the territory remained part of Britain in the long term, and announced that he would formally respond to Sanchez's announcement on Saturday evening. 
“Throughout our history, we've stuck with Britain. After Brexit, we will stick with Britain in the future too,” he said in the release. 

A spokesman for the British government confirmed the deal, explaining that the UK had committed to continuing direct post-Brexit talks with Spain over the peninsular alongside negotiations for the country's future ties with the EU, resolving a last-minute hitch to a divorce deal.
“For the withdrawal negotiations, given there are some circumstances which are specific to Gibraltar, we held talks with Spain,” a British government spokesperson said.  “These were constructive and we look forward to taking the same approach to the future relationship.”
After the deal was announced, Tusk called on EU member states to approve the deal agreed when the European Council meets on Sunday.  

Sanchez later thanked Jean-Claude Juncker over Twitter for his role in resolving the impasse. 


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.