‘Brexit not had negative effect’ Gibraltar sees spike in Spanish workers despite EU exit

Gibraltar: Morton discusses priorities in post-Brexit relations

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The Rock is at the centre of a row between the UK, EU and Spain, as Madrid wants more access and control over Gibraltar’s borders. However, Rogelio Velasco, Councillor for Economic Transformation, Industry, Knowledge and Universities, has dismissed concerns about Spanish workers not being able to commute to the Rock.

Mr Velasco said Gibraltar’s government is “very closely” following the number of people registered in Spain and working in Gibraltar.

Despite EU and Madrid fears over staff shortages, the number of Spaniards coming to work in Gibraltar has increased since Brexit according to the Councillor.

He said: “Brexit has not had a negative effect and the number of Spaniards who cross the border every day to work in Gibraltar continues to grow slightly: the August number was 9,545 people.”

However, Mr Velasco also said Brexit, “in a longer perspective has affected Andalusia and Spain as a whole”.

He said “the volume of trade, imports and exports with the United Kingdom has deteriorated” since Britain left the EU.

He added: “The UK today is less wealthy than when Brexit took place and it is importing fewer products from Spanish companies and from the rest of Europe.”

Mr Velasco also indicated “a second reason is that the British pound has been depreciating against the euro since Brexit until now, almost 10 percent, and now in England importing products from the rest of the world is more expensive, and as a result, less is exported.”

It comes after Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said he hopes the UK and EU can achieve a post-Brexit agreement that will facilitate “fluidity” on the Spanish border.

He added: “I hope that (a new treaty) will allow us to enjoy the freedom of movement of people.

“Not in terms of the freedom of movement of the European Union, but of the fluid access of people to Gibraltar through the Schengen Area, which begins in Spain.”

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister added he is “very confident” an agreement will be reached which “shows the best of what Gibraltar’s membership of the EU meant” into a “new tailored arrangement”.

Gibraltar is not included in the Brexit agreements that entered into force on January 1.

The UK, Gibraltar and Spain agreed in December the EU’s border agency Frontex would take a prominent role in managing comings and goings.

However, a draft mandate from the European Commission gives greater responsibility to Spanish officials to manage Gibraltar’s border.

Former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused the EU of seeking “to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar” with the draft.

On Wednesday, there were a number of talks between the UK and Spain about relations between the island and the municipality of Campo de Gibraltar following Brexit.

The first meeting saw discussions about police and customs cooperation, with Juan Carlos Ruiz Boix, mayor of the town of San Roque, welcoming attendees.

Speaking at the meetings, Mayor Ruiz Boix said: “I hope and wish that both meetings will be fruitful and that we can continue to share the bonds of union between the different cities that make up Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar.

“May we all share the spirit of conciliation, agreement and consensus that has been conveyed to us by the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, who from the beginning engaged in dialogue so that our region shares with Gibraltar what he has called an area of shared prosperity.

“That is the challenge that the local entities and the region have, and I hope that the British and Gibraltar delegations share it.”

Additional reporting from Maria Ortega

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