1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Spain-Gibraltar risk 'hard border' amid last-minute talks

December 30, 2020

Madrid and London are negotiating against the clock to save cross-border traffic between Spain and the British territory Gibraltar. If no deal is reached, a "hard border" could disrupt thousands of commuters.

A Union Jack flag hangs outside of a storefront in Gibraltar
A Union Jack flag hangs outside of a storefront in GibraltarImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Heeneman

Madrid and London are negotiating to preserve the free movement of people across the border between Spain and Gibraltar, once the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

Both sides on Tuesday were negotiating against the clock as the fate of thousands of commuters was left to be decided in less than three days.

The main hurdle in the talks over Gibraltar's post-Brexit status is keeping cross-border traffic fluid, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said. Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, was excluded from the last-minute exit deal reached between Britain and the European Union last week. 

'Hard border' could disrupt thousands

If no agreement is reached, the possibility of a "hard border" could cause disruption for thousands of commuters, on both sides of what will be a new border between Britain and the EU. 

However, Spain has secured an exemption for about 8,500 cross-border workers from border controls, even if no agreement on free movement is reached, Gonzalez Laya said in an interview with Spain's national radio service RNE. 

"We will seek this agreement until the last minute," said Gonzalez Laya. If there is no deal, Gibraltar will be "the only place where a hard Brexit is applied," which would lead to tighter border controls, she warned.

Around 15,000 people live in Spain and work in Gibraltar, accounting for half of the territory's workforce, focused mainly on the tourism, financial services and online gambling industries. Around 10 million tourists, primarily day-trippers from Spain, visit the region each year. 

lc/sri (AFP, Reuters)