UK and Spanish authorities are reportedly holding 11th hour talks to finalise a post-Brexit Schengen Area arrangement covering Gibraltar’s border with Spain. According to a report in El País newspaper, the parties are “negotiating fiercely” to reach a deal that will allow Gibraltar residents with homes in Spain, as well as thousands of Spanish and other workers travelling daily into the British Overseas Territory, to avoid having to cross a European Union external border when the Brexit transitional period ends on 1 January.
Under the agreement, Gibraltar would become part of the Schengen Area, which comprises 26 European countries that have officially abolished all passport and other types of controls at their mutual borders. The area effectively functions as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The UK (and by extension Gibraltar) has never been part of the passport-free area, even as a member of the European Union.
The plan – also being sounded out by Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo – would enable Gibraltar to enjoy free cross-border movement status under Schengen without being part of the EU. It is understood this would mean the EU’s external borders being established at Gibraltar’s airport or seaport but not its land border with Spain. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, 96 per cent of Gibraltarians voted against the UK leaving the EU.
Updated Restrictions for Air Travel to Gibraltar
Meanwhile, the Gibraltar and UK governments have agreed to invoke additional restrictions for people travelling by air. This is in response to a continued increase in COVID-19 infections arising from the new virus strain detected in the United Kingdom (one instance has been identified in Gibraltar).
According to the Gibraltar government, the new restrictions mean that, unless passengers comply with the requirements and fall within the exemptions specified below, they will be refused entry into Gibraltar.
Only the following passengers will be permitted to disembark:
- Individuals who are registered Gibraltarians, either by birth or naturalisation.
- Individuals with residence in Gibraltar, on demonstrating satisfactory proof of residence.
- Seafarer on transit to a vessel berthed in Gibraltar and who has an immigration pre-clearance letter issued by the Borders and Coastguards Agency.
- Spanish nationals who are in transit to Spain.
- Individuals travelling to Gibraltar on transit to Spain and who hold lawful residence in Spain, on demonstrating satisfactory proof of residence.
- People who are carrying out a work activity or taking up employment in Gibraltar and who provide proof on arrival.
- Military personnel who have been issued with Travel Orders.
- Individuals who hold an electronic letter issued by the Borders and Coastguard Agency granting that individual permission to enter Gibraltar.
The restrictions are due to apply from midnight tonight (23 December), and they are in addition to other measures announced by the Chief Minister in Parliament on requirements for COVID-19 testing, including a negative PCR test within 72 hours, or a “fast test” at Gibraltar Airport.