- Brexit will affect British citizens traveling to and from Gibraltar.
- Negotiations are currently being discussed between the UK and the EU.
The UK and the EU are still negotiating the future of Gibraltar and its ties with the Schengen Area after Brexit. Negotiators are “within touching distance of a historic treaty” and a definite solution to what will happen to Gibraltar after Brexit, according to Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.
The fate of the British colony of Gibraltar and its future connection with Europe is still being debated by UK and EU officials.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland officially exited the EU in January 2020, with the transition period ending in early 2021. Although the EU and the UK have finally agreed a trade agreement for the post-Brexit era, discussions about Gibraltar’s future are still underway.
Since the vote, Gibraltar’s relationship with Spain has been a source of contention. Gibraltar, often known as ‘The Rock,’ became British territory in 1713, although due to its geographical location to the south of the Iberian Peninsula, it maintains close links with Spain.
Given that Brexit would impact UK passport holders travelling to Europe, Gibraltar residents’ interactions with Spanish territory are also expected to change.
The following questions are addressed in this article:
- How can I travel from Spain to Gibraltar after Brexit?
- What will happen at the Gibraltar-Spain border?
- Will Gibraltarians need a Schengen visa for Spain after Brexit?
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO GIBRALTAR AFTER BREXIT?
The UK and Spain agreed to prevent a hard border between Gibraltar and Spain by the end of 2020. This was accomplished by enabling Gibraltar to join the Schengen Area.
Although this agreement was not legally binding, it prepared the ground for an international treaty between the EU and the United Kingdom.
Formal talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom have been ongoing since 2021. These seek to create a “wide and balanced” accord “without regard to concerns of sovereignty and jurisdiction.”
The first mandate was refused by the British, who were opposed to Spanish authorities managing Gibraltar’s borders. Instead, the UK wants Frontex to oversee Schengen border security on its territory.
In a revised draught, the European Council decided to refer to Spain’s request for Frontex assistance in border control.
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, has stated that the territory is “within touching distance of a new treaty” with the EU.
DOES GIBRALTAR COUNT AS SCHENGEN?
Gibraltar is not officially a member of the Schengen Area. However, the United Kingdom and Spain reached a preliminary agreement to allow Gibraltar to join the open borders zone. Residents of the Rock and the neighbouring territory of Spain would be able to traverse the border more easily for business and other purposes.
When the talks between the EU and the UK are completed, Gibraltar is anticipated to enter the Schengen Area for at least four years. Following that, the agreement will be evaluated, and the arrangement may be extended in the future.
IS GIBRALTAR IN THE EU AFTER BREXIT?
Gibraltar, being a British Overseas Territory, departed the EU alongside the United Kingdom. It is no longer a member of the European Union, and there are no intentions to reverse that.
However, talks are underway to include Gibraltar in the Schengen Area, a free travel zone that comprises the majority of EU members.
TRAVELLING TO GIBRALTAR AFTER BREXIT
Gibraltar is currently not a member of the EU or the Schengen Area. Visitors must follow the territory’s immigration rules, which are fairly similar to those in the United Kingdom. Many visitors, including nationals of the EU and Schengen nations, can enter without a visa.
If Gibraltar becomes a member of the Schengen Area, its immigration policies will almost probably alter to reflect the rest of the travel zone. Some travellers may require a Schengen visa to travel to Gibraltar.
Foreign travellers from qualified countries may be required to register with the ETIAS visa waiver portal beginning in November 2023.
ETIAS MAY BE REQUIRED TO ENTER GIBRALTAR FROM THE UK
Before entering the Schengen Area, UK nationals will need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
The EU’s new visa waiver scheme will go into effect in November 2023 and will be required for third-country nationals visiting any of the ETIAS nations.
Because Gibraltar will become a de facto member of the Schengen Area, UK people, with the exception of Gibraltians, will almost certainly require an ETIAS to visit Gibraltar in the future.
The permission may be obtained online and is valid for up to 90 days. Because an ETIAS visa waiver is valid for three years, or until the passport expires, there is no need to reapply before each trip.
CROSSING THE GIBRALTAR-SPAIN BORDER
Crossing the border has become more difficult for individuals who live in Gibraltar after Brexit. Border controls are now in place to ensure that British passport holders and products entering Spain conform with Schengen laws.
It’s a similar tale for the 10,000 Spanish people who travel to Gibraltar for employment every day. Travel from Spain would become significantly simpler for these people if Gibraltar entered the Schengen Area.
Vijay Daryanyani, Gibraltar’s Minister of Tourism and Business, emphasised how the legislation will create many work chances for Spanish citizens:
“It would mean that the 16,000 Spaniards who cross the border every day to work in Gibraltar’s hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and other enterprises would be able to enter the territory without having to show their passports.” We have more jobs than people; we need them to come to Gibraltar and work.”
While the interim agreement between Spain and the United Kingdom opens the path for unfettered movement over the border, it will not take effect until the discussions are concluded.
THE ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF THE GIBRALTAR-SPAIN BORDER
The ability to rapidly and effectively cross the Gibraltar-Spain border is critical to the economies of both Spain and Gibraltar.
Furthermore, in recent years, Gibraltar has established itself as a popular tourist destination. Every year, around 10 million people visit Gibraltar, the majority of them arrive by land from Spain.
This mutual reliance underscored the significance of ensuring that entry into Spain from Gibraltar, and vice versa, stays as efficient as possible following Brexit.
HOW WILL THINGS CHANGE WHEN GIBRALTAR JOINS THE SCHENGEN AREA?
Because of the agreement between the United Kingdom and Spain for Gibraltar, it is probable that the British colony will enter the Schengen Area for passport-free travel, and will now be included in the Schengen Agreement with the other 26 member nations.
The 271,000 residents of Gibraltar’s eight municipalities will have unrestricted mobility to Spain and the other Schengen nations, and all Schengen people will be able to visit Gibraltar without having to show their passports.
However, because the United Kingdom is not and has never been a member of the Schengen Area, British residents will still be needed to pass through passport controls in order to enter Gibraltar.
The deal will be in effect for four years, during which the EU will deploy Frontex border guards at Gibraltar’s land border in order to support the free movement accord.
Spanish Foreign Minister González Laya has also announced that the new agreement between the UK and Spain will require Gibraltar to follow EU fair competition laws. These policies, in areas such as financial policy, the environment, and the labour market, are shared by the other Schengen Agreement countries.
The new Gibraltar UK-Spain agreement places the territory on par with Liechtenstein, which enjoys visa-free travel inside the Schengen Area despite not being a full member of the Schengen Information System
It also implies that Gibraltar’s air and sea ports are now de facto part of the Schengen Area’s external boundaries.
DOES THE UK SUPPORT GIBRALTAR BECOMING A SCHENGEN MEMBER?
The UK is open to Gibraltar joining Schengen to facilitate mobility over the border with Spain.
It is, however, adopting a firm stance on the issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction. One of the most contentious issues in the discussions has been how immigration would be handled if Gibraltar is admitted to the zone, as its crossings will be regarded part of the Schengen Area’s external borders.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed “enthusiasm” on Twitter about the new agreement regarding a post-Brexit Gibraltar, while Dominic Raab, the former UK Foreign Secretary, described the agreement as a “political framework” that will lead to a separate treaty with the EU after a 6-month transition period.
He went on to say that “both parties are dedicated to minimising the impact of the Brexit Transition Period’s end on Gibraltar, and in particular to ensuring border fluidity, which is obviously in the best interests of the people living on both sides.”
WHO WILL HAVE CONTROL OVER GIBRALTAR’S SCHENGEN BORDERS AFTER BREXIT?
Following the Gibraltar Brexit Agreement, certain questions remain about who will have power over choosing who may enter the Schengen Area from Spain.
González Laya previously stated that “the final decision on who enters the Schengen Area belongs to Spain” because neither Gibraltar nor the United Kingdom have access to Schengen regulations, processes, and resources, including the Schengen Information System database.
In an online reaction, Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, sharply rejected González Laya’s allegations, tweeting that “only Gibraltar will determine who enters Gibraltar and Spanish officers will not exercise any controls in Gibraltar at the airport or port now or in four years’ time.” This is our home. Couldn’t be more apparent.”
The United Kingdom has resisted Spanish authorities limiting immigration into Gibraltar because it would jeopardise British sovereignty. The Gibraltarian and British governments have stated that they would prefer no arrangement to jeopardise the territory’s sovereignty.
In accordance with the UK’s intentions, Spain has approached the Frontex border agency for assistance in border control for Gibraltar. The talks are still going on.
DEAL ON SCHENGEN VISA ISSUANCE TO ENTER GIBRALTAR
The framework agreement negotiated between the United Kingdom and Spain involves the removal of Gibraltar’s present physical barrier, known as La Verja, which stands between La Lnea (Cádiz, Spain) and the British Overseas Territory.
The UK-Spain agreement specifically specifies how Schengen visas will be issued in the future to enter Gibraltar: Short-term Schengen visas (up to 90 days) may be issued by Spanish embassies and consulates to visitors visiting the area. When the ETIAS visa waiver is implemented in November 2023, the following will occur: Spain will be in charge of administering European travel permits for visitors to Gibraltar.
Long-term Schengen visas (greater than 90 days) will be given by Spanish officials as well. Foreign applicants can, however, be served by British embassies.
In any of these circumstances, Spain “must align itself with the EU’s visa policy,” which implies, for example, that the nation must notify Gibraltar on a regular basis about the visas it has given.
OTHER REACTIONS TO THE GIBRALTAR BREXIT DEAL WITH SPAIN
Despite his worries over González Laya’s remarks concerning border control, Fabian Picardo has hailed the pact a “success” that “will relaunch our relationship with Spain” and will offer up new chances for “decades, if not centuries.”
González Laya also stated that the agreement will allow Gibraltar to strengthen connections with the EU, something that 96% of Gibraltar voters desired from the Brexit referendum.
POST-BREXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTERING SPAIN FROM GIBRALTAR
Now that Gibraltar has joined the Schengen Area, the way Gibraltarians travel to Spain will not change when the Brexit transition period ends.
Because passport-free travel is authorised between all Schengen countries, Gibraltarians will be able to go to Spain with only an ID card and will not be required to present their passport at border crossings.