Gibraltar brought back into the Brexit arena by Spain

Alfonso Dastis – possibly an iron first in a velvet glove ©Foreign Ministry Spain Flickr

AS long ago as 1987 an in principle agreement was reached between Britain and Spain for joint use of the runway in Gibraltar but this plan was opposed by the Gibraltar government.

Later, when a decision was made to build a new terminal in Gibraltar, the concept of joint access was again raised, not intending joint sovereignty but operating similarly to Geneva airport with separate access from Spain and Gibraltar.

The one main difference would have been passport control as Gibraltar is not part of the Schengen Agreement so each side would have had to have their own immigration checks and as a shared international airport there was talk of subsidised flights to Ceuta.

In the event, this option fell through as much it is believed due to Spanish intransigency as opposition from Gibraltar.

The new terminal opened and some flights to both Barcelona and Madrid were introduced but were soon suspended due to lack of demand.

From then on, flights operated to the UK only apart from the odd charter to Malta and more recently flights to Tangier and Casablanca in Morocco.

Now, the Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis has announced that as part of the Brexit negotiations his government wants to resurrect the concept of a shared airport terminal and also see tougher crackdown on smuggling, even though the bulk of drugs come from Morocco directly to La Linea or from South America in containers to Algeciras.

When Mr Dastis replaced former right winger Margallo as Foreign Minister it was thought that the former diplomat would be less ‘aggressive’ than his predecessor but since taking over the ministerial position, he does appear to be adept at saying one thing and then doing another.

For the government of Gibraltar and the Prime Minister Theresa May this may – to use a Spanish simile – be like a red rag to a bull!

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