Spain and the UK reached an agreement on Thursday over Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, that will see it joining the EU’s Schengen despite the “motherland” exiting the European Union for good.
The agreement will be signed by the UK and European Union that will see Frontex and Spain handling the passport/immigration checks at Gibraltar’s port and airport during the four year implementation period.
Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg:
Spain and the U.K. struck a last-minute deal over Gibraltar that eases access to the territory and removes the threat of fresh restrictions at the border with the European Union once Britain leaves the bloc on Jan. 1.
The territory will operate under passport-free Schengen terms, she said, adding that the final agreement is expected to come into force within six months.
During a four-year implementation period for the accord, officials from the European border agency Frontex will help with controls at Gibraltar’s port and airport, with Spain as the party responsible for overseeing Schengen.
And the New York Times:
Fearing border checks that could leave it isolated and economically pinched, Gibraltar wanted control-free access to the Spanish mainland, similar to that enjoyed between the European countries that are part of the Schengen area, in which travel checks have only been reintroduced in emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.
There are now limited border controls in place in Gibraltar, because Britain has never been part of the Schengen agreement. After Brexit, Spain wanted to ensure that the territory did not become a check-free point of entry for people traveling on to the Spanish mainland.
Not all European Union countries are part of Schengen (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus & Romania). Then there are Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein that are not part of the EU but are in Schengen.
The UK and Gibraltar have never been part of Schengen, but when the “parent” was still part of the EU, the border checks were cursory.
It would have been difficult for people living in Gibraltar and those from Spain working there daily to have exit and entry checks whenever they cross the border. It is a rather sensible solution that the Rock, as Gibraltar is often called, becomes part of the EU’s/EEA’s passport free travel area, usually referred to just Schengen.
Suppose there had been free movement of people between Gibraltar and Spain without the enclave being part of Schengen and adhering to Schengen’s entry requirements. In that case, it could have become a loophole to smuggle people to the bloc via the UK.