AFTER a rocky start, negotiations over future relations between Gibraltar and the EU-bloc are set to begin within weeks.
The negotiating mandate was approved by European Union ambassadors on Friday (Oct 1) following months of discussions paving the way for talks to begin later this month.
The initial mandate which was presented in July was rejected out of hand by then Foreign Minister Dominic Raab because it sought to “undermine the UK’s sovereignty”.
He insisted that the bloc “think again” as there was “no possibility for this forming the basis for an agreement.”
That mandate crossed over red lines established in the New Year’s Eve agreement that allowed Gibraltar to join the Schengen area because it gave Spain the mandate to carry out border control and surveillance at Gibraltar’s port, airport and waters.
Instead the UK and Gibraltar insisted that Frontex would carry out this role, rather than Spain.
The British government has taken a hard line over the issue, insisting as recently as last week that the UK would be prepared to walk away with a “no deal” rather than undermine British sovereignty over the Rock.
“We are already working, together with the Gibraltar government, on a possible non-negotiated outcome, in the case that we reach the conclusion that this is the path that we must take,” said Wendy Morton, the UK minister for Europe and Americas at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in late September.
Although the details of the new mandate from the EU has yet to be published, it is understood that it has taken British objections into consideration and will include “the intention of Spanish authorities to cede control to the European Border Control Agency Frontex”.
Once the mandate is formally adopted next week at a meeting of EU ministers, the European Commission, which is responsible for negotiating on behalf of the EU, will be able to start talks with the UK.