New Brexit proposals for visiting Gibraltar met with dismay and derision

‘These Brexit benefits never stop coming….’

Under a new plan being discussed by UK ministers with the European Commission, British visitors to Gibraltar could face the same post-Brexit checks and rules as when entering EU countries, including losing some of their 90-day travel in Europe allowance.

The 90-day stay in 180 days, which was negotiated as part of the Brexit agreement, ended freedom of movement for British citizens travelling to EU countries, especially those with properties abroad.

Curently, UK passengers can enter the British territory of Gibraltar up to and including the date their passport expires. However, under the new proposals, a passport would need to be less than ten years old on the day of arrival and have at least three months remaining on the day of departure.

Under the current system, anyone arriving at Gibraltar airport goes through passport control. Travellers wanting to enter Spain, pass through a separate border in the airport, but with the new proposals the Gibraltar/Spain border could become a thing of the past.

“Instead, those arriving in Gibraltar would pass through Gibraltar immigration, followed by Schengen immigrations,” Leo Docherty, Conservative MP and Europe minister, told MPs on the European Scrutiny Committee.

The proposals sparked concern on the Committee. Sir William Cash, chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, referred to Docherty’s plans as being of “great concern.”

“What you describe, in effect, as having been agreed in principle between the government and the European Commission is deeply troubling. The government has been clear on its red lines regarding Gibraltar negotiations, including issues pertaining to sovereignty, jurisdiction and control.

“Talk of Schengen border checks in Gibraltar, the notion of a ‘level playing field’ for cross border trade and ‘flexibility’ regarding joint UK/Spain management of Gibraltar airport is alarming and does not accord with what you have previously described to us concerning the government’s approach to – and progress of – Gibraltar negotiations.”

In a bid to allay such concerns, Docherty said: “We are seeking to conclude the practical details of a mobility arrangement with the Schengen Area, not membership of it.

“Ensuring fluid movement of people across the border with Spain has been the key area of discussion.

“The UK will only agree to terms that the government of Gibraltar are content with and will not agree to anything that compromises sovereignty,” he continued.

With British comforts including a Marks & Spencer’s and UK cafes alongside  a Spanish climate and neighbouring landscape, Gibraltar has long been a popular holiday destination for British travellers. Proposals to essentially quash the freedom of movement to the British overseas territory, have not been well-received.

“These Brexit benefits never stop coming…” someone mocked in a post on X.

“Let’s just admit Brexit has failed,” was another comment.

One dismayed onlooker wrote #GeneralElectionNow, #RejoinEU.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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