On 31 December 2020, a framework for a UK/EU Treaty on Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU was proposed, cited as the New Year’s Eve ‘In-Principle’ Agreement (the “Agreement”). If ratified, this post-Brexit deal (the “Treaty”) for Gibraltar will address, among other things, the issue of unrestricted mobility of persons and goods between Gibraltar and the Schengen Area.
The next step will be a political instrument that will outline the basic understandings of the UK and Spain, in conjunction with Gibraltar, on the future relationship between Gibraltar, Spain, and the EU. These understandings will form the basis of the Treaty, which will remain in place for an initial four-year period. The Agreement stipulates that the process will only go ahead with permission from the UK and Gibraltar. As with Article 50, Gibraltar retains the right to withdraw this permission at any time and thereby end the Treaty.
The aim is for the Schengen Area to be extended to include Gibraltar. If this occurs physical barriers between Gibraltar and the Spain will be removed, providing unrestricted passage into Spain and the rest of the Schengen Area.
Gibraltar will not have a land border under the Treaty, but will have reinforced airport and seaport controls at its entry points, which would now be considered EU frontiers. Entry and exit through these points will only be permitted on completion of both Gibraltar and Schengen checks.
The Gibraltar authorities will be responsible for Gibraltar checks in regard to their own legislation, and for ensuring the legislation gives effect to these arrangements. As the neighbouring Schengen member state, Spain will be responsible for the implementation of Schengen’s relevant parts i.e., including Schengen checks, which will be carried out by Frontex.
The position regarding visas remains as it is now. Persons requiring a visa to enter Gibraltar pre-Treaty will still need one after the Treaty comes into force. UK nationals will not require a visa to enter Gibraltar or the Schengen Area.
Exercising jurisdiction over any person in Gibraltar will be the sole responsibility of Gibraltar Border & Customs Agency and law enforcement officials.
Although the detail is yet to be defined, the Agreement also seeks to address maximised and unrestricted mobility of goods between Gibraltar and the European Union. The subsequent freedom of movement will mean continued economic growth for Gibraltar and the surrounding area.
Ancillary matters including the environment, level playing field, social security coordination, citizen’s rights, data, and matters related to continued document recognition are also addressed in the Agreement.
The UK government will now send the Agreement to the European Commission in order to initiate negotiations on the formal Treaty.