Brexiteer Ben Habib has questioned whether or not Rishi Sunak’s government has been awake as he fears Britain losing its treasured overseas territory of Gibraltar. Post-Brexit trade and border-crossings arrangements between Spain and Gibraltar have been operating on an ad hoc basis since the UK left the EU. The Rock, on the Southern tip of Spain, will be at the heart of talks between the UK Government and the EU Commission on Thursday and Friday.
Back in December, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hinted a breakthrough in trade talks over Gibraltar’s status was close.
While a free trade deal was struck between Britain and Brussels in 2020, Gibraltar’s own future has been the subject of drawn-out negotiations with little progress.
Madrid pushed to seize more control over the Rock by putting forward plans to eradicate border posts between Gibraltar and Spain.
The proposals would see the Rock effectively become a part of the EU’s Schengen zone that allows for free movement across the continent.
In return, Spain would take control of the territory’s borders.
As talks resumed today, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib warned the UK government could be losing its grip on the Rock if it caved to EU and Spanish demands over its status.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “All the focus is on Northern Ireland but Gibraltar too is being ripped away from the United Kingdom. Unless our government wakes up to that danger it will be subsumed by Spain and the EU without even a murmur.
“Gibraltar is not part of the United Kingdom, it is not riven with a sectarian divide and it overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. None of that means, however, that it should cease to be a British Overseas Territory without its people’s consent. That is what is happening right now.
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“Not being part of the UK, Gibraltar is not a party to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Its future relationship with the EU is being negotiated at the moment. Proposals tabled include:
– the removal of physical checks and controls on persons and goods at the land border between Spain and Gibraltar;
– the likely inclusion of Gibraltar in the Schengen zone;
– rights for cross border workers;
– the establishment of a level playing field – for which read alignment with EU laws on a dynamic basis – future laws made in Brussels will be foisted on Gibraltar; and CRUCIALLY
– a robust governance mechanism – for which read European Court of Justice oversight and rights to sanction.
“These provisions go much further than anything in the Protocol that binds Northern Ireland. If adopted into a treaty, they would result in Gibraltar seceding to Spain in short order.
“Is anyone in No. 10 awake?”
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Madrid continues to claim it has ownership of Gibraltar despite ceding it to Britain in 1713.
About 15,000 people commute daily from Spain to Gibraltar, which has a population of about 32,000.
Spain has been repeatedly accused of attempting to use Brexit to wrestle control of the small 2.6 square mile area, despite the majority of Gibraltar residents supporting remaining under the jurisdiction of the UK.
Britain and the EU set a deadline of the end of 2022 in order to give a hard end date to talks.