Friday 19 April 2024

Gibraltar, and reviewing the Brexit 'bill of goods'

Last Friday saw a potentially significant piece of Brexit news with the joint statement of the first meeting in its current format of political leaders from the UK, EU, Spain and Gibraltar, which reported that “significant progress” had been made towards achieving an agreement about the post-Brexit arrangements for Gibraltar. This was followed by widespread media reports that such an agreement was very close, and “within kissing distance” in the words of Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo.

An agreement about Gibraltar was described in the Financial Times (£) as “the last big unresolved problem of Brexit”. That is slightly misleading in the sense that Brexit is, and will remain, an ongoing process, giving rise to ongoing problems, and even to ongoing negotiations, if only because of the joint governance structures that exist in relation to various part of the Withdrawal Agreement and Trade and Cooperation Agreement. But it is true in the narrow, yet important, sense that it marks the end of the negotiations which began in 2017 between the UK and the EU about the institutional form of Brexit.

As such it is a good time to take stock of the Gibraltar strand of Brexit and how that intertwines with the Brexit saga and, ultimately, to the extent that it does represent a certain kind of completion, a good time to take stock of Brexit itself.

Gibraltar and Brexit

Gibraltar’s situation is complex. As a British Overseas Territory it is not part of the United Kingdom but is a part of the UK’s sovereign territory, a sovereignty long-disputed by Spain since having conceded it in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. In recent years Spain has sought various models of joint sovereignty over what the UN currently characterizes as a non-self-governing territory. However, Gibraltar has twice, in 1967 and 2002, held referendums showing massive 99% majorities for remaining as UK sovereign territory. Yet in the Brexit referendum, opinion was completely different to that of the UK itself, with 96% support for remaining within the EU. This situation, along with the military significance of ‘the Rock’, its border and economic entanglement with Spain, and its role as a tax haven, means that Brexit posed a particular conundrum.

Even before the referendum, the status of Gibraltar was a fraught issue in UK-Spanish relations, so it is actually quite surprising that negotiations over its post-Brexit situation have dragged on rather quietly for so long, especially given that it gave rise to the first flashpoint in the Article 50 process. 

To briefly summarise that row, immediately after the UK gave notice under Article 50 at the end of March 2017, the EU Council produced its draft negotiation guidelines, which included a paragraph to the effect that no agreement on the EU’s future relationship with the UK would apply to Gibraltar without the agreement of Spain. Quite what that meant at that time was slightly obscure, since there were different understandings in play as to whether the future relationship would require unanimous agreement of all EU members (which would include Spain anyway), and for that matter different understandings of how the future relationship would be negotiated (at that stage, the UK was still pushing for it to be done in parallel with the Article 50 talks).

However, one thing it very clearly meant, even if only symbolically, was that the EU regarded Spain as having some kind of special status as regards Gibraltar and, whilst that might be taken to be no more than a recognition that it was the only country apart from Ireland where there was a land border with the UK territory, it also seemed to recognize, if not to uphold, Spain’s claim to sovereignty over Gibraltar. Certainly that was how it was taken by Brexiters, and it unleashed a torrent of jingoistic nonsense, to the extent that some even speculated about going to war with Spain over the issue.

This episode happened almost exactly seven years ago, and many may have forgotten it, but it is worth recalling now, not just because a Gibraltar deal is finally in the offing, but because even at the time it foreshadowed some more general lessons, which I identified in my post of 2 April 2017, the consequences of which are still playing out.

The lessons of Gibraltar

Lesson #1: The negotiating process

One lesson was, indeed, about the issue of the sequencing of exit and future terms negotiations, and the fact that the EU was clearly not going to accept the UK’s suggestion, in Theresa May’s Article 50 letter, that these be conducted in parallel. The roots of this actually went back much further. Before the referendum, the Vote Leave campaign had promised: “Taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden stop - we will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave.” This was always nonsense in terms of the Article 50 process – the only legal leaving process that existed – and an hour before the referendum result was officially confirmed the European Council had already circulated an advisory note to EU members reiterating this.*

In one way, that lesson was fairly quickly learned. Having threatened that it would be the ‘row of the summer’ of 2017, when the time came, shortly after May’s disastrous 2017 election, Brexit Secretary David Davis immediately capitulated to ‘sequencing’.  Yet in other ways the lesson went unheeded in that, throughout the negotiations, UK politicians and the media frequently confused or conflated exit and future terms, and Boris Johnson deliberately did so in the 2019 election, when he proposed his ‘oven-ready deal’ as something which would ‘get Brexit done’ when it was, in fact, only the exit deal.

Ever since then, many of the Brexit Ultra MPs have persisted in the belief that the Northern Ireland Protocol part of that deal was somehow temporary, contingent on the terms of the future trade deal (on the most charitable interpretation, this rests on a confusion between Johnson’s ‘front stop’ Protocol and May’s ‘backstop’, but even that degree of charity entails that those MPs were lamentably incompetent). More generally, even now, Brexiters represent the acceptance of sequencing as the first failure of May to ‘play hardball’ with the EU, and hence it is a foundational component of their explanation of why Brexit hasn’t been done ‘properly’.

It’s a myth which will not die, and was trotted out yet again this week by Liz Truss (as she seeks to drum up sales for a political memoir variously described by reviewers as “self-serving” and “ludicrous”, “shamelessly unrepentant, petulant … and cliché-ridden”, and “weird”). I suspect it will be years, if not decades, before this myth finally disappears from British politics.

Lesson #2: The meaning of a union

The second lesson of the April 2017 Gibraltar row was that whilst the EU would negotiate as a bloc, and in the interests of the bloc, it would do so with particular regard for the interests of those members most directly affected by Brexit, such as Spain, Cyprus (in relation to UK military bases) and, perhaps most of all, Ireland. This again exposed the hollowness, if not downright ignorance, of the Brexiters’ pre-referendum position, most notoriously articulated by David Davis when he asserted in May 2016 that “the first calling point of the UK’s negotiator in the time immediately after Brexit will not be Brussels, it will be Berlin, to strike the deal: absolute access for German cars and industrial goods, in exchange for a sensible deal on everything else. Similar deals would be reached with other key EU nations.”

It was an especially idiotic idea given that one of the Brexiters’ own objections to the EU was that it did not allow its members to make their own trade deals, and such nonsense was quickly exposed as such. However, it never quite died and, throughout the negotiations, the UK frequently used – whatever the Ultras may say – “hard tactics” to try to pressurise individual states or even regions into breaking the EU’s unity, as recorded by a key member of the EU’s negotiating team, Stefaan de Rynck, in his book Inside the Deal (p.61).

That these failed reflects, as the early Gibraltar row portended, the care which the EU took, and will continue to take, over protecting the specific interests of its member states, including small ones like Ireland (compare this with Davis’s airy reference to “key” EU nations). As such, it also served as a reminder of the ways that sovereign power is magnified, rather than extinguished, by EU membership. The contrast with the carelessness, bordering on disdain, with which the London government treated the interests of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, in a sense, Gibraltar itself, was a marked one. There is still no sign that Brexiters or the British government have learnt any aspect of this second lesson.

Lesson #3: The complexity of Brexit

The third of the lessons identified in my post about the 2017 Gibraltar episode was that, even leaving aside the nature of the exit process, it was an early example of the huge number of complex problems which Brexiters had poured scorn on during the referendum, but which the UK was now going to have to face up to. For although it was certainly not a major campaign issue, the possible implications of Brexit for Gibraltar had been pointed out.

In particular, in May 2016 the then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had said: “I genuinely believe that the threat of leaving the European Union is as big a threat to Gibraltar's future security and Gibraltar's future sovereignty as the more traditional threats that we routinely talk about.” The reaction from Brexiters was furious, with Liam Fox enraged that the possibility should even have been mentioned, saying “I think there are limits to what you can and cannot say in any campaign that goes way beyond acceptable limits” (sic). All this had been reported in the Daily Express under an inevitable headline about ‘Project Fear’ yet, just a few months on, and there was actually talk, admittedly ludicrous, of going to war to defend sovereignty over Gibraltar.

As the months and years have gone by, just about everything which the Brexiters said would be simple, quick, and easy has been shown to be complex, slow, and difficult. It’s true that there have been exceptions. Rolling over EU trade deals proved less difficult than many, including me, thought, and so has the creation of a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the EU, following exit from Euratom. That’s not to say that either of these things has been beneficial, but they haven’t presented the intractable problems associated with, say, the search for ‘frictionless trade’, or a solution to the Northern Ireland Trilemma.

However, the general picture is that almost everything, from fishing quotas to residency rights, has thrown up massively more complexity than the Brexiters had admitted, or even understood, before the referendum. And this remains the case. Just this week, Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch spoke of the increased trade barriers with the EU as being something done by the EU to the UK rather than something chosen by the UK. Then came yesterday's truly ludicrous news of yet another delay in the introduction of import controls on goods coming from the EU (more on this in future posts, no doubt).

Gibraltar in limbo

As regards Gibraltar itself, after the initial flare-up in 2017 its post-Brexit future became detached from the main Brexit negotiations and effectively ‘parked’, following an agreement in November of 2018 as part of the attempt to get May’s ill-fated Withdrawal Agreement off the ground, and it was not covered by the eventual trade agreement, simply leaving the single market at the end of the transition period (it had never been part of the customs union).

Since then, the territory has been “in limbo”, operating under the terms of a series of Memoranda of Understanding created in 2018, and then a temporary agreement made in December 2020 which also set the path for negotiations for a UK-EU treaty. This has enabled Gibraltar to be a party to the Schengen agreement, allowing an open land border with Spain, and for Spain to be involved in policing its port and airport – these, along with regulatory alignment, being amongst the most disputed issues in the negotiations.

However, this does not mean that these temporary arrangements have run smoothly. For example, in April 2022 several British citizens were refused entry into Spain from Gibraltar because they did not have documentation showing onward travel or evidence of being able to financially support themselves in Spain. Brexiters expressed outrage, apparently unable to understand that they are not alone in wanting to secure borders from potentially illegal immigration.

Meanwhile, after some fractious pre-negotiation, negotiations for a formal treaty began in October 2021, since when there have been seventeen rounds of talks. As discussed in relation to other policy areas in one of my recent posts, the churn of Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries since then may have been one barrier to progress. It is of note that the conduct of the negotiations gave rise to one of the allegations of bullying against one of these Foreign Secretaries, Dominic Raab, which led to his subsequent resignation as Deputy Prime Minister. That allegation arose because a senior civil servant had supposedly jeopardised UK sovereignty over Gibraltar, emphasising how this concept has continued to lie at the heart of the negotiations.  

There were rumours of a deal in December 2022 and again in November 2023, so it is possible that nothing will come of the latest announcement. However, there is now a clearer sense that there has been political agreement, perhaps a result of David Cameron becoming Foreign Secretary, and that the outstanding issues are of a technical nature. It seems likely that any agreement that is reached will entail Schengen area passport checks being undertaken at Gibraltar’s port and airport by EU Frontex staff (rather than Spanish border staff), accompanied by an agreement to keep the Spanish-Gibraltar land border open without checks, and some form of joint UK-Spanish management of the airport (which has a particular sensitivity as it is also an RAF base), as well as full regulatory alignment.

These possibilities have already attracted the ire of Brexiters such as Bill Cash and Andrew Rosindell, and dark mutterings of “the EU taking Gibraltar by stealth” in the Telegraph, but how much actual opposition they would put up to an agreement is unclear. Very likely, as with the Windsor Framework, the power, and perhaps even the interest, of the ERG will be shown to be much reduced.

Crucially, as with the Northern Ireland situation, and in a different way with the import controls situation, the Brexiters have no answer to the fundamental conundrum, which is of their own making: they have created the need for a border but don't want to create a border. More generally, their naïve idea of untrammeled sovereignty has again been exposed to the realities of power and found wanting. But if they are not able to prevent a deal, nor are they able to understand why a deal has been done. The warships will not sail, and Gibraltar will become yet another grievance of Brexit betrayal.

The Brexit bill of goods

As Brexit issues go, Gibraltar has received less attention in the UK, at least, than it should have done (I include myself in that criticism) although, of course, there are good reasons why Northern Ireland, to take the most obvious, somewhat comparable, issue, has received so much more. Yet it is a revealing one, not least as a reminder of the quite casual, careless way in which the Brexiters tossed the lives of so many people into disarray, uncertainty, or even crisis.

It is also an example of the way that the entirety of the Brexit process is a still unfolding lesson in the realities of what Brexit means, as compared with what Brexiters claimed it would mean, a lesson which is only very slowly and painfully being learned as Brexit continues its relentless degradation of national life. Just in the last week there have been more instalments, from news of medicine shortages to news of restaurant staff shortages to news of garden centres having to stockpile goods, whilst the latest import controls delay continues to expose us to increased risks of disease and sub-standard products. But although the lesson is by no means over yet, there comes a moment at which it is reasonable to set a test, and that surely cannot wait for the 25, 50 or even 100 years that, since though not before the referendum, some Brexiters have suggested need to pass to assess their project. Nor can the test of success be, as most Brexiters these days seem to imagine, whether it has been less damaging than the worst predictions made for it. Brexit was, after all, sold as a positive project.

In an interview the other day, the actor Michael Douglas remarked, apparently in passing, that Britain was “sold a bill of goods” (meaning something passed off in a deception or fraud) and that “they should take the old political speeches that were made [before the referendum] … they should remind people of what they were promised”. It’s such an obvious point, and yet one rarely made in British political discourse. People should indeed be reminded of what David Davis promised in the article I referred to earlier. Or of what Daniel Hannan promised. Or of what Vote Leave’s slick, shamelessly manipulative video promised Brexit would mean for the NHS.

This isn’t about picking around in the entrails of long-past events. It is about promises made to the British people less than a decade ago, and made by people many of whom are still active in political life. Moreover, many of those people are now, like Hannan, using the same tricks to urge us towards an equally ruinous Brexit 2.0 of ECHR derogation to, as he put it this week (£), “finish the work of Brexit”, whilst others are now seeking a referendum on immigration.

We live in a time when almost every controversial decision or event is made subject to an independent inquiry. None of them relates to anything of the magnitude of Brexit, which surely warrants such an inquiry. If a Gibraltar deal is about to be done, and the long years of literal Brexit negotiation are finally ended, that would be the ideal time. It won’t happen, of course, but here’s a thought: if, as David Lammy said this week, the coming Labour government will be committed to ‘progressive realism’ in foreign policy, including relations with the EU, then what better place to start than a realistic assessment of whether Brexit has lived up to the promises made for it?



*There are two different issues nested within this. One is about the EU successfully insisting that there could be ‘no negotiation without notification’ (i.e. without triggering Article 50). The other is about whether any discussion of future trade terms could be undertaken prior to the completion of the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. On the latter, whilst refusing the UK’s attempt to undertake the two sets of talks in parallel, the EU somewhat softened its position to the extent of agreeing that the talks within the Article 50 period could encompass two sequenced phases, the first broadly agreeing exit terms and, subject to ‘satisfactory progress’ on these, a second that would finalise the exit terms whilst also discussing preliminary future terms. Phase one was ostensibly completed with the agreement of December 2017 but, for reasons far too long to be summarised here, phase 2 discussions about future terms never really happened (for details, see just about every post on this blog for the two years after that date, or chapters 2-5 of my book Brexit Unfolded).


  1. Does anyone still believe that import controls will ever happen?

    1. Surely they have to. Not only is it a legally binding treaty obligation, but not to do so is to disadvantage UK exporters and potentially endanger health.

    2. It's clear now that this current Govt fully intends to kick the can down the road so that it becomes a new Labour Govt problem. Labour have long said they want SPS alignment with the EU, which will do away with the need for these checks (remember the EU offered this, but Johnson/Frost rejected it on moronic grounds). So IMHO no formal full check system will be put in place until a new Labout Govt agrees an SPS alignment deal with the EU. Whilst SPS experts say that shouldn't take too long, it's not ideal in terms of food health security for UK residents, so Labour might think about some interim measures for high-risk food items.

    3. I agree with anon 20/04/24 15.47 that this is the most likely outcome

    4. One suggestion is that the controls will be introduced just before the general election in order to salt the earth for an incoming Labour government.

    5. Labour would like an SPS agreement.
      The EU would like No NHS surcharge, cheaper visa agreement, reciprocal student exchange / Youth Mobility Scheme / Erasmus.

      Whatever the EU propose will include a mobility agreement.

  2. Brexit has rendered the UK like the proverbial crab in the boiling pot.
    However, the UK decided by itself to get into the pot, nobody put it there.
    Now the water is getting warmer, the crab is tied up in knots, and there is no way out (there is no way back from Brexit, the sooner the UK realises this the better). The crab feels OK for the moment- the water is comfortably warm, but there are some hot spots it can't avoid, and they are increasing in number. The crab is starting to feel something is going wrong with the plan.
    The crab won’t remember why it chose to put itself in the cooking pot, and even if it could change its mind, the crab already told everyone what a fantastic genius move it was to tie itself in knots and isolate itself from the consortium (I had to look it up), who spent much time trying to convince the crab that leaving was a very bad idea.
    As the water heats up to boiling, and with Brexit this will take many years, the crab feels threatened, isolated, stupid, in denial, lashes out, all to no avail. It put itself in the pot, it is in the pot, it will be in the pot until the time is ready for it to be devoured.
    Brexit has a predictable destiny, like the crab in the pot, and like the crab, not the UK voted for Brexit thinking the destiny that it thought at the beginning of its ill fated adventure would be soooo different. If only somebody had told them... wait!
    Sadly the Brits still feel like the pot is comfy and warm, the water isn't too bad, but the hotspots just keep on coming, and the lonely crab is isolated in the world, friendless and there for the taking.
    Not much of a vacuum, but there for the taking. This is what Brexit has reduced the UK to.

    1. Excuse me, but do not lump me, or the millions of pro-EU Brits, in with the lunatics whose delusional fantasies about their country's global status inflicted this ongoing nightmare upon us. We are trying our hardest to begin the journey to get out of it, but it will take time.

    2. Unfortunately pro-EU folk have to contend with the same crab pot. They cannot be miraculously excluded from this metaphorical disaster.

  3. Graham Martin-Royle19 April 2024 at 11:59

    " the only country apart from Ireland where there was a land border with the UK territory," Not strictly true as you mention later "Cyprus (in relation to UK military bases)". I have not come across anything in relation to Cyprus and the UK sovereign territory there. How was this situation resolved?

    1. Yes, tho' it's not really the same kind of border/ issue. I'm not up to speed with how (and to what extent) it has been resolved, I'm afraid, but a deal *was* reached by May in 2018 which I assume was carried forward in Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement:

    2. The Sovereign Base Areas are the subject of a protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement. Broadly, the protocol continues the previous arrangements concerning the SBAs, which (unlike Gibraltar) were not part of the European Union. See the recitals to the protocol and this:

    3. Thanks for that info, Conn.

  4. Our national Brexit history can be described as crisis coping, combined with sardonic British humour. A bit like suddenly finding yourself a permanent guest at Faulty Towers. But as the ten year referendum anniversary comes into view, my guess is the mood could turn darker and more urgent - particularly as no realistic benefits are expected, even from the comfortably padded architects like Johnson, Frost, Hannan, etc. Also, the election will likely see the end of government's role as official Brexit propaganda purveyor.
    As Chris Grey indicates, an independent inquiry would be the honest, responsible and democratic way to reset the process - and from Labour's point of view would also help signal our rehabilitation to the global investment markets.

    1. The UK first voted to leave the EU, then deliberately gave overwhelming governmental control to the party which had already demonstrated its corruption and inability. As soon as Labour demonstrates that it is unable to restore the status quo ante — which, to be fair, nobody actually could, but which Labour under the center-right Starmer won’t even attempt to accomplish, instead doubling down on Tory policies and calling it “pragmatism” — the UK will vote in another Tory government. Nobody with an outlook spanning more than 5 years will trust the UK for another generation, if then. (Interestingly, Charles de Gaulle wanted to keep the UK out of the common market precisely because he foresaw that the minute the UK believed that there would be even momentary benefit to itself in pulling out of the deal, they would do so. It took longer than he expected, but Brexit was exactly the fulfillment of his prediction.)

      The US is in the same position, although perhaps most Americans don’t realize it: 3 of the last 7 US Presidents have been — not to put too fine a point on it — simpletons with highly destructive agendas, each one worse than the previous one, and US Congress is constantly falling in and out of the same kind of idiocy with no long-term stability. Nobody sane who wants to accomplish goals which will take more than a couple of years at the outside would trust the US or the UK to take part, let alone lead, anything of importance. “Rehabilitation” of either one is a myth promulgated by people who don’t want to admit that their country’s day has passed.

    2. Kenneth Almquist22 April 2024 at 01:57

      The elections of George W. Bush and Donald Trump are signs that American democracy no longer functions very well, but I’m not sure who the third US President you refer to would be. I believe that Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts played a pivotal role in the transformation of the Republican Party, because it led to a disconnect between the party policy (tax cuts for the rich) and the policies the party could run and win on. However, Reagan himself was a more or less normal President.

      The difference between the United States and the UK is that the United States could and did vote Donald Trump out of office four years after voting him in, although the disfunction that led to the election of Donald Trump in the first place remains. On the other hand, the UK is stuck with Brexit for at least a generation.

    3. Ronald Reagan was indeed the third I was talking about. If you examine the problems the US now faces, nearly every singe one was (1) made worse by Reagan if already in existence (as, for example, the way tax cuts for the rich have skewed public policy in their favor by vastly increasing their wealth) or (2) actually CREATED by Reagan (as, for example, his massive cuts to education — to teaching at the primary and secondary levels, to college funding (an explicitly deliberate move — the records exist to prove it — because higher education tends to move people left, and therefore he and his cronies and controllers wanted to move US politics rightward by deliberately making people more ignorant; in a less insane country, not only would that policy have been reversed immediately but the entire administration would have been jailed for the attempt), and to spending on basic research, all of which has left the country, 36 years later, much less competitive than it otherwise would be). And it’s no secret that Reagan was something of a fool all along and basically senile for the last few years of his administration. (Like Mao, the White House had “interpreters” to determine policy based on his occasional mutterings. Somewhat famously, they interpreted his utterance of “go deep” to mean that the government should build the Superconducting Supercollider in Texas even though it was more or less the opposite of the sort of thing his administration had backed until then, which of course was abandoned roughly a decade later at the demand of his own party, after spending around $2 billion on it).

      The UK could easily have voted the Tories out of government 5 years ago. Instead, they gave them an overpowering majority. I WILL grant you that the UK’s system for choosing a government (and therefore the membership of the executive) is possibly the only one actively in use which is less representative than the US Electoral College, so the UK was at a disadvantage there — but in 2019 it was already abundantly clear that the Tories were both incompetent and corrupt, so the fact that they actually increased their share of the popular vote (for the second time, since they did the same in 2017) is as much an indictment of the UK voting public as even the phenomenon of Donald Trump’s candidacy, despite his antics, is in the US.

  5. Dear Prof Grey
    I wanted to say thank you for this blog. The exceptional depth and clarity of your analysis makes it a vital anchor in truth, rationality and reality as the endless delusions, deceptions, gas-lighting and outright lies swirl around and threaten to engulf us. It's always a highly enlightening, if sobering read, and my essential weekly proof that I'm not actually going mad (even if many of our politicians appear to have done!) For me the big questions are still how do we ever come back from this, and is there any hope for us?

  6. @dupas_francois19 April 2024 at 15:27

    We will know more next week with Chris !

  7. The damage piles up but the taboo against mention of it in political circles remains

    I'm looking forward to the repatriation of euro clearing to the euro zone having abandoned London with my family. Things will have to get worse, and I think they will, before liars and charlatans are held to account. The denial remains strong.

    1. I suspect the settled consensus re Brexit in the top echelons of government, business, & trade bodies is simple "embarrassment" & that is the biggest impediment to realistically addressing it

  8. FYI the stock market issue was covered in last week's post

  9. I think the Gibraltar dispute has been relatively quiet in recent years do to the lack of interest or confrontation by the left wing coalition Spanish government in power. This could easily become a hot potato again as soon as the government changes there, although most Spaniards do not seem to care much about the issue, and they benefit economically in the Gibraltar bay.

    1. How do Gibraltarians feel with the new set-up as they voted 96% Remain? Do they have a Gibraltarian identity as opposed to a British identity? If so, does anyone know to what extent?

  10. Labour's claim that they will work towards closer collaboration with the EU must be taken with a lump of salt. The "making Brexit work" party has summarily dismissed the EU's offer of a youth mobility scheme, even before Sunak & Co did. I think Remainers will be in for a huge disappointment.

    1. Labour have also said they are not seeking any new global trade deals - which pretty much confirms our economic and geopolitical future with Europe.

    2. Down with freedoms! Welcome to North Korea.

    3. Labour's rejection of the youth mobility scheme leaves me despairing. It's not even clever politics, as all it'll do is (rightly) alienate youngsters from Labour. It's another unprincipled grovel to a rapidly dwindling sector of ill-educated and prejudiced Red Wallers

    4. @mark sullivan: Is that true (that Labour have said they are not seeking any new global trade deals)? Who? When? What would happen to (what may well be) ongoing trade negotiations with e.g. India?

    5. It's something I saw from a Labour spokesperson, (sorry, can't remember name) some months ago. I must admit I was quite surprised by lack of comment/reaction at the time. But from a practical point of view, they are hardly going to want to re-start Indian talks - which only promise downside and accusations of following in the Brexit ideologues' footsteps. A US deal would also be out of the question - for obvious political reasons. You are then left with the prospect of dealing with economic semi basket cases, like Turkey - again a practical non starter for any sensible administration.

    6. @mark: thanks, though I would be surprised if that was said as I don't think it is Labour policy (though, I admit, I don't know that it isn't Labour policy, or whether they even have a policy on it!)

    7. Starmer still terrified to get a bad headline on the tabloids (nobody gives a fig about that anymore), and unable to give the battle, has decided to keep seeking validation from the Brexit loonies and conspiracy theorists. He should have understood by now that the country needs a leader to guide it out of the darkness. Perhaps he is not the person the country is desperately looking for.

  11. Excellent thanks. It’s good to get a clear eyed review of the situation with Gibraltar.
    However it appears that Brexitism and all its arrogance is still very much alive. Tonight I read in the Guardian that Sunak has rejected the proposal by the EU Commission for a broad 4 year youth mobility program between the EU and UK.

    The Guardian article notes that the Tories say that they will not agree to anything that looks like a return to FOM (however limited in scope) as this will “cross our red lines”.

    Apparently they don’t want a EU wide deal but instead want to cherry pick bilateral deals with certain EU members - in particular France. It’s a return to the arrogance of the early days of the Brexit talks when they thought they could slice and dice trade deals with individual EU states and bypass the Commission.
    Deluded to put it mildly and very counterproductive as it’s a proposal pushed by the ever dwindling number of Anglophiles in the EU.

  12. You write "seems likely that any agreement that is reached will entail Schengen area passport checks being undertaken at Gibraltar’s port and airport by EU Frontex staff (rather than Spanish border staff), ". No it doesn't, and that is where talks are deadlocked, because HMG is fantasizing as usual about the EU monolith it imagines exists rather than the association of sovereign states that actually exists. Control over entry to Spain is the responsibility of the Spanish border police. Full stop. Frontex is a a second line reinforcement squad. They can be called in by Spain when it it seems likely to be over who by British economic migrants sorry ex-pats, but not otherwise. Frontex has no legal authority to act unilaterally.

    1. Well, we will see - if and when an agreement is reached.

    2. If an agreement is reached, the UK will be on the losing side yet again.

      Overwhelmingly Gibraltar, of course, wanted to remain in the EU.

      The movement of workers across the border every day was reason alone, aside from the other multiple benefits. Further, it is no wonder that residents feel that they have to cross the border just to reach a well stocked supermarket such as Mercadona, in the same way that one could not expect citizens of a UK town to be limited to shopping at the corner store.

      Of course politicians in their bubble of Westminster will remain detached from reality and continue to deny the catastrophic damage their ignorance has caused.

      Thank you Chris again for your excellent record of factual assessment following the disaster that has made the UK much the poorer.

    3. It's the lack of a land border that made Brexit even slightly feasible. For the rest of the EU with thousands of kilometres of land borders, where communities near those borders have become interwoven with the communities on the other side for services such as schooling, shopping, health care, etc, or even just work, just severing that is practically impossible. We saw that in small scale during Covid where countries wanted to close borders but realised it would create more problems that it solved for those communities.

      NI has at least the Common Travel Area which wasn't under discussion. For Gibraltar to do a full on border with Spain was just never a realistic possibility.

    4. Very good points Martijn!

      If any continental EU country had ever contemplated exiting (before the UK demonstrated how bad that would be), they surely would have tried everything to stay in the single market and Schengen travel area.

      Anything else would have been political suicide

  13. As a retired Customs and Excise Officer the failure to introduce inward controls is no less than criminal negligence by the government especially having an inspection centre 20 miles from the actual frontier which leaves it wide open to abuse by the unscrupulous

  14. I wonder if the lack of attention of Gibraltar's situation, especially from the media, might actually have been more a blessing than a burden.

    They are able to conduct sensitive negotiations with the EU without having to deal with Brexiters throwing tantrums on even hints of concessions.

    Bad enough that they will have to deal with that inevitability once an agreement is reached but at least they should have mostly peace and quiet until then

    1. Agree - good point, which I hadn't thought of

  15. Hello from Finland,
    Been reading your blog almost from the start. But... I would like to suggest you a topic for writing.

    What would entry again to EU really mean for UK?

    When Finland was seeking admission to EU. I myself had the feeling that it wasn't a negotiation. More like do we fill all EU degrees for admission. There wasn't so much to negotiate.

    When UK has to rejoin. I think there won't be so much negotiation as UK government would like. EU admission criteria. No negotiations. You accept them or EU perhaps sees that UK is not ready to rejoin? UK is not European enough?

    Money? Is UK ready to switch to euro?
    Defence? EU defence what it may mean when it's time to rejoin.
    UK really have to accept ALL EU criteria for new application countries.
    But... Do UK people really know what they are? You had lot's of outs when you still were members but that is not an option anymore.

    Think that EU countries want to see European county seeking admission. Not country seeking only advantage for itself.

    Thank you and it has been pleasure reading your supers writings.


  16. I haven't heard anything about the Falkland Islands for a while.
    They had a non deal Brexit, which resulted in issues selling squid within the EU.