Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia said the British enclave is ready to share its airport with Spain as it seeks to keep officials in Madrid onside during the Brexit process.
The 33,000 inhabitants of Gibraltar, who voted overwhelming for the U.K. to remain part of the European Union, are in a particularly vulnerable position during the talks because the EU has given Spain the right to decide whether the enclave will share Britain’s post-Brexit access to European markets.
Garcia said that he’s significantly more confident that Spain won’t force the territory into isolation after recent comments from Foreign Affairs Minister Alfonso Dastis. Dastis’s conciliatory tone marks a significant shift from his predecessor Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo who pressed Spanish claims over the territory, on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, and at times imposed stringent border checks to disrupt the flow of workers.
“I think that there is an understanding that it’s not about treaties or vetoes,” said Garcia. “It’s about working together and trying to find solutions for problems that exist, to make sure that interest of citizens on both sides aren’t damaged by Brexit.”
Gibraltar has been a British territory since 1713 even though Spain disputes its sovereignty. Despite their differences, communities on both sides of the border are tightly integrated with about 8,000 Spaniards crossing the frontier each day to work.
Garcia said that Gibraltar is ready to grant Spain joint management of its airport in line with a 2006 agreement, but it needs the Spanish authorities to build an extension to the terminal on their side of the border. By expanding the airport and extending rail links, Spain and Gibraltar could attract more companies to the area, he said.
Officials from both sides have been holding talks over the airport as a way to strengthen their ties during the Brexit process, Cadena Ser radio station reported in January. It said the airport expansion would cost about 6 million euros ($7.4 million).
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.