Help us, EU! Spain doubles down on Gibraltar threat – demands border guards in Brexit row

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The British overseas territory left the EU, along with the UK, in January 2020. Madrid wants the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to assist its border security.

Just hours before Brexit took place in 2020, the UK and Spain agreed to demolish the current border between Gibraltar and Spain.

Instead the territory will be treated like a Schengen zone member, with controls only at the port and airport.

London and Madrid agreed for the first four years Frontex agents will help conduct these checks.

Juan González-Barba, the Spanish secretary of state for the EU, confirmed his government plans to go ahead with these plans.

Speaking from Brussels he said: “There was already in the meeting that the current minister of foreign affairs, José Manuel Albares, had with the former British foreign minister [Dominic Raab] the commitment that Spain would request the assistance of Frontex to help in the execution of its obligations.”

Regarding EU proposals he added: “It will be seen in what way the request of Spain to get the assistance of Frontex can be included.”

Brexit had profound implications for Gibraltar, a territory of 34,000 situated by the south of Spain.

Gibraltar has been under British control since 1704, though Madrid continues to claim sovereignty.

In 2002 Gibraltarians voted by 99 percent to remain a UK overseas territory, with an 88 percent turnout.

Spain closed its border with Gibraltar in 1969, in protest at its constitutional status.

The border didn’t fully reopen until 1985, before Spain joined the European Community, now the EU.

In June 2016 96 percent of Gibraltarians voted against Brexit in the UK’s membership referendum.

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Spain responded by demanding joint sovereignty over the peninsula, but this was firmly rejected by Gibraltar’s chief minister.

During 2020 the UK recorded 820 Spanish incursions into Gibraltar’s territory, according to British defence chiefs.

Of these 37 were conducted by the Spanish air force, and 27 by its navy.

The remainder were made by Spanish civil guards or customs officers.

Under the terms of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, agreed in December 2020, some regulatory checks now exist on trade between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.

This has infuriated unionists, who argue it undermines British sovereignty.

Additional checks, which had been due to come into effect this summer, were delayed to reduce tensions.

However, they are still forecast to commence in 2022 unless the EU makes concessions.

The British Government is urging the EU to show leniency, if it wants the controversial Northern Ireland protocol to survive.

Paul Givan, Northern Irish first minister and DUP leader, has threatened to collapse the Stormont power-sharing agreement unless the protocol is dramatically amended.
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