Cross-border workers who commute between Gibraltar and Spain will be exempt from border controls after Brexit even if no agreement on free movement is reached with the United Kingdom, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Monday.
Madrid and London are negotiating how to police the land border between Spain and Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, as it is excluded from the last-minute exit deal reached between the UK and the European Union last week.
“Our biggest priority is to prevent the Gibraltar border from becoming a hard border,” Gonzalez Laya told a news conference.
However, even without a deal, there will be provisions in place for those who work on one side of the border and live on the other.
“Cross-border workers who have registered their status before 1 January 2021 … will be able to cross by identifying themselves with a document prepared for this purpose,” she said.
Other travellers will need to have their passport stamped.
More than 15,000 people live in Spain and work in Gibraltar, making up about 50 percent of Gibraltar’s labour force.
The territory’s population of about 34,000 was overwhelmingly against Britain leaving the EU.
In the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum, 96 percent of voters in Gibraltar supported remaining in the continental bloc that they feel gives them more leverage to deal with the government in Madrid.
The port also welcomes about 10 million tourists per year, a sector accounting for about a quarter of its economy.
Spain will continue to assert its claim to sovereignty over the territory, ceded to the UK in 1713 after its capture during the War of the Spanish Succession, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, Gonzalez Laya said.