A row has erupted this week between Gibraltar and Spain as their governments row over who gets to decide who enters the British overseas territory. Gibraltar relies heavily on freedom of movement with Spain, something that had come under threat during Brexit talks. But, the Rock will now subscribe to the EU ‘s Schengen zone rules, meaning people will be able to move between Gibraltar and Spain with checks. Spain’s Foreign Minister has said that “the last word on who enters Gibraltar will be had by Spain”.
However, this provoked a furious response from Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who said he will have the final decision.
He tweeted: “Under the New Year’s Eve Agreement only Gibraltar will decide who enters Gib & Spanish officers will not exercise any controls in Gibraltar at the Airport or Port now or in four years time. This is our land. Couldn’t be clearer.”
During the Brexit process, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez claimed that Madrid had “won” the debate over the Rock.
He said in November 2018: “With Brexit we all lose, especially the United Kingdom, but when it comes to Gibraltar, Spain wins.”
Gibraltarian anger at Spain was epitomised when Chairman of the Self Determination Group for Gibraltar, Richard Buttigieg, told Express.co.uk last March that Madrid had acted “maliciously” towards the Rock.
He said: “When one sees Spain’s government trying to take advantage of Brexit for their own political gain, it further emphasises that they are not the kind of people we want to be associated with.
“It also proves that they are approaching the Gibraltarian issue from a negative and I would say malicious perspective.”
At the time, talk of Spain trying to claim shared ownership of Gibraltar was rife, leading Mr Buttigieg to criticise the Spanish government.
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Expert Jesus Verdu, from the University of Cádiz, believes that the Gibraltarians may be forced to accept Spanish control in regards to the border debate.
He told Euronews: “It is difficult for Gibraltar to accept that the last word is going to come from Spain since there is no other option anymore.
“I believe that Gibraltar will eventually accept it, but it will not be easy. And it will need to be an exercise either of a certain makeup or of compensation for Gibraltar in the negotiating process.
“Everything seems to indicate that there is a Spanish desire to adopt a very discreet profile in such a way that the presence of uniformed police officers or the civil guard will not be visible in the airport facilities.”