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Gibraltar and Brexit

Date: 05 January 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

 Spain has announced that it has struck a deal with the UK to maintain free movement to and from Gibraltar, even after UK’s departure from European Union.

 

Background

Gibraltar is a small portion of land on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula that Britain controls but Spain claims as its own.

 

Details

  • Gibraltar will now be part of the Schengen zone and follow EU rules, thus ensuring that a hard border does not separate it from the rest of Europe. However, it will continue to remain a British Overseas Territory.

  • The Schengen passport-free zone includes 22 countries from the EU, and four others –Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. The UK has never been a part of this zone.

 

Gibraltar

  • Gibraltar has an area of just 6.8 sq km and a population of around 34,000 people but has been the subject of intense dispute between Spain and Britain for centuries.

  • This is because of its strategic location near the opening of Mediterranean sea into the Atlantic ocean.  It is a key location on the shortest sea route between Europe and Asia via the Suez Canal.

  • Gibraltar fell into British hands after a war in 1713, and has since remained with Britain despite several attempts by Spain to retake it.

  • Due to its strategic importance, Gibraltar came to be highly fortified by Britain since the 18th century, thus earning its commonly known name– “the Rock”.

  • Even during World War II, Gibraltar’s port was critically important for the Allies, and it continues to be a key base for NATO.

  • In two referendums, one in 1967 and the other in 2002, Gibraltarians overwhelmingly voted to remain a British territory.

  • Currently, the territory is self-governing in all aspects, except for defence and foreign policy, which are managed by London, and Gibraltarians have British citizenship.

 

Post-Brexit

  • The result of the 2016 Brexit referendum gave rise to the possibility of a hard border coming up between Gibraltar and the rest of Europe, despite 96 percent of the vote in Gibraltar being in favour of remaining in the EU.

  • Gibraltarians mainly voted ‘Remain’ because the territory’s economy depends on an open border with Spain, which sends over 15,000 workers and 200 trucks daily.