UK-EU agreement on Gibraltar ‘getting closer’ after talks in Brussels

Talks between Lord Cameron and the European Union on Gibraltar led to “important breakthroughs” with a final agreement “getting closer”.

A joint statement issued after the talks involving the UK, European Commission, Spain and Gibraltar said there was a “constructive atmosphere”.

The Foreign Secretary, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares and Gibraltar chief minister Fabian Picardo met in Brussels for the second round of discussions about the territory’s relationship with the EU.

The nature of that relationship remains unresolved after Brexit, with rules governing Gibraltar’s border with Spain understood to be a major sticking point.

The joint statement said: “Today’s discussions took place in a constructive atmosphere, with important breakthroughs and additional areas of agreement.

“All sides are reassured that the agreement is getting closer and will work closely and rapidly on outstanding areas towards an overall EU-UK agreement.

“The meeting reaffirmed their shared commitment to concluding an EU-UK Agreement to bring confidence, legal certainty and stability to the lives and livelihoods of the people of the whole region, by protecting and improving economy and trade, mobility, environment and social wellbeing, while safeguarding all parties’ legal positions.

“They all agreed to remain in close and constant contact.”

Sir Bill Cash, a Eurosceptic Conservative MP and chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, said last week that negotiations over Gibraltar risked becoming “Northern Ireland Protocol 2.0”.

In a letter to Foreign Office minister David Rutley, he said proposals outlined to his committee represented “a serious diminution of UK sovereignty”.

Of particular concern was the possibility that EU border checks could be carried out at Gibraltar’s airport, which Sir Bill said would “erode UK sovereignty to the point of meaninglessness”.

The Foreign Office has previously said the UK remains steadfast in support for Gibraltar and will not agree to anything that compromises sovereignty.

Lord Cameron was also due to co-chair a meeting of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement Partnership Council and a meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee with Mr Sefcovic.

The meetings will focus on the UK’s relationship with the EU, the implementation of the Windsor Framework and other issues including citizens’ rights and support for Ukraine.

The Foreign Secretary’s visit comes against the backdrop of continued concerns about the EU’s influence in Northern Ireland.

Belfast’s High Court ruled on Monday that sections of the Illegal Migration Act, which includes powers to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, should be disapplied as they were incompatible with human rights protections guaranteed in Northern Ireland by post-Brexit arrangements.

The Government has said it will appeal against the decision, which some Conservative MPs have strongly criticised.

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