Britain and Spain hold ‘informal bilateral talks’ impinging on Gibraltar

Joe Garcia

Britain and Spain have held what are being described as ‘informal bilateral talks’ on Brexit issues which have implications for Gibraltar. The talks were held yesterday at a time when nobody was expecting them, as if the thinking was that the sooner the ice was broken, the better. 

This sort of exploratory discussions bear certain similarities to what Gibraltar has gone through in the past, so the question now is: What’s next and at what level?

The UK/Gibraltar meeting all day yesterday, which appears to have continued today, was to appraise Gibraltar leaders of what was on the table.


A Gibraltar government statement last night said: “HM Government of Gibraltar can confirm that earlier today UK and Spanish officials held an informal meeting as part of the UK’s ongoing engagement with different EU Member States on the practical implications of the UK and Gibraltar’s exit from the European Union.”

It emerged that officials discussed a wide-range of technical exit-related issues, some of which were relevant to Gibraltar. But it has not been officially revealed what were the issues relevant to Gibraltar.

The Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, along with the Attorney General, were fully briefed on the outcome of this informal meeting. This follows the meeting in Gibraltar the previous day between the Gibraltar and UK Governments.

As there has not been a public outcry from Gibraltar leaders, it is to be assumed that they have not heard anything that can be described as detrimental to Gibraltar. So, presumably everything Gibraltar wanted to be put across was complied with by the UK delegation.


In fact, a Government source suggested to PANORAMA that it was not concerned by anything arising from the meeting.

These informal meetings tend to be described by the participants as friendly, constructive and what-have-you, but they do not represent the end of the matter, but rather the beginning.

There is still a long way to go, including political input from all concerned. It is not unknown for situations to take a turn when Spanish ministers get cold feet.

It is being asked if the Spanish Government will honour what their foreign minister Alfonso Dastis said recently, that sovereignty was not a question that they would raise.

The Chamber of Commerce, however, was saying earlier this week that they had some concerns that Sr Dastis was concentrating on continuity for cross-frontier workers, whereas the Cross-Frontier Group aspired to the continuity of the status quo of fluidity for workers as well as for goods and the general public.

In fact, the Spanish know that if they raise such a thorny issue as sovereignty, now or later, the UK would have no option but to retort with the double-lock guarantee, which could have serious consequences for the good order of the Brexit negotiations.


It is also being pointed out tha there are issues which may not impinge on sovereignty, but they may in respect of jurisdiction and control which might be unacceptable, particularly as Spain retains its territorial claim to the homeland of the Gibraltarians.

A strong point in Gibraltar’s favour is that the UK fully recognises that they cannot take steps which Gibraltar would not find to be agreeable, as everything affecting Gibraltar is ad referenda to Gibraltar.

In his New Year message, the chief minister referred pointedly to Section 47(3) of the Gibraltar Constitution which says: “Without prejudice to the United Kingdom’s responsibility for Gibraltar’s compliance with European Union law, matters which under (the) Constitution are the responsibility of Ministers (do) not cease to be so even though they arise in the context of the European Union.”