Gibraltar poised to be part of the EU’s borderless Schengen area by end of the year

Rock of Gibraltar - Paul Biris/Moment
Rock of Gibraltar - Paul Biris/Moment

Gibraltar could be part of the EU’s borderless Schengen area by the end of the year, says one of the territory’s most senior ministers.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Vijay Daryanyani, Gibraltar’s tourism and business minister, said he hoped a historic new treaty allowing freedom of movement between the territory and the EU would be signed “within the coming months”.

He said such a deal could bring major economic benefits to Gibraltar and Spain, enabling frictionless travel for Spanish workers entering the territory, for residents from the Rock shopping across the border and for tourists coming from the EU.

However, he maintained there would be no sacrifice of sovereignty. “There'll be no concessions whatsoever on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control. That is one of the things that Gibraltarians and the Government are 100 per cent sure of,” he said.

Negotiations to secure a treaty have been in progress since a temporary agreement allowing freedom of movement for up to four years was finalised in December 2020 just hours before the UK left the EU.

Treaty within months

Mr Daryanyani, a key figure in the talks, said: “We think we're in a good place. And we hope that we can have a treaty within the coming months. We'd like to think that we could get somewhere by the end of this year.”

He said it would mean 16,000 Spaniards who daily cross the border to work in Gibraltar’s hospitals, hotels, restaurants and other businesses would be able to travel into the territory without passport checks. “We have more jobs than people, we need them to come and work in Gibraltar,” he said.

There would be reciprocal benefits for Spain. “Gibraltarians spend a lot of money in that area of Spain. We give them a lot, they buy kitchens, they buy furniture. There is a whole range of economic activity that goes on because of Gibraltar in that area,” said Mr Daryanyani.

He wants aviation to be part of any treaty as it would mean the Rock would not only be a destination for Britons but would “open up a whole slew of different possibilities of marketing Gibraltar as a tourism destination in the whole of Europe”.

It would mean tourists could fly into Gibraltar from Paris, for example, from where they would be able to visit Spain as part of Schengen or take a 45-minute ferry trip across the straits to visit Morocco.

“So if we could have where aviation would be in the treaty, then that would open up access throughout Schengen to direct flights from Gibraltar to Madrid to Barcelona to Paris to Rome,” he said.

“It would create huge economic activity, as far as tourism is concerned, but of course other commercial possibilities.”

Destination boosted by the pandemic

He said Gibraltar’s status as a holiday destination had been boosted by the pandemic, earning a place on the UK’s travel green list after becoming one of the first countries to fully vaccinate its population.

However, he admitted the territory needed to boost its hotel provision from its current 800-capacity if it was to fulfil its ambition. “We realise that we need to build more hotels to accommodate leisure travellers,” he said.

It is planning a potential doubling in capacity over the next five years with “firm interest” from three or four hotels to open there, said Mr Daryanyani.

“People have realised that Gibraltar can be a very good holiday destination. There is a lot of interest and I think this has come about because of the pandemic,” he added.

Free movement of goods was “under discussion” but the “key thing is the movement of people first”, he added.