Navigating Brexit: Gibraltar's Path to a Tailor-Made Future


A Timeline of Events

23rd June 2016
Over 7 years ago, on 23 June 2016, the UK and Gibraltar voted in the Brexit Referendum on our continued membership of the EU. The result of the referendum signaled the direction in which Britain wanted to travel, but it did not kick start the formal process for the UK and Gibraltar to leave the EU.
29th March 2017
This process started 9 months later, on 29 March 2017, at which point the UK Government formally triggered what was referred to as “Article 50”. The 2-year period allowed by the EU treaties in which to organise the UK and Gibraltar’s divorce from the EU started to countdown from then. These arrangements would be contained in the Withdrawal Agreement which entered into force almost a year later than expected, on 1 February 2020, given the many difficulties the UK Government needed to overcome in the UK Parliament to obtain support for it. By this point, we are almost 4 years on from the referendum.
I used the word divorce earlier intentionally. I used it because I want to illustrate that the Withdrawal Agreement was not about building a new relationship but organising the breakup of an old one. It was about bringing the past up to the present. It was not about the future.
The work the Gibraltar Government did until then, which was by no means easy, is what allowed Gibraltar to form part of the orderly separation arrangements and stand in with a chance of securing its own, tailor-made, future relationship with the EU. This would be contained in a separate treaty.
31st December 2020
The roadmap, the political framework which would guide negotiations on this separate agreement with the EU was agreed with Spain after several months of talks culminating on 31 December 2020. This was the very day on which the EU stopped treating the UK and Gibraltar as if they were part of the EU – what marked the end of a period known as the transition period – 4 and a half years on from the Brexit vote.
5th October 2021
At that stage, at the beginning of 2021, the UK and Gibraltar were ready to convert this political agreement into a fully-fledged, legally binding, international treaty and negotiate, for the first time, Gibraltar’s new relationship directly with the EU. But it took the EU over 9 months to get to the negotiating table since its own internal processes authorising the start of negotiations were only completed on 5 October 2021.
11th October 2021
The first formal round of negotiations with the European Commission, on our crunch, future relationship with the EU, which will amongst other provisions establish Gibraltar’s critical, future border arrangements with the Schengen space, took place on 11 October 2021over five years after the referendum.
May - July 2023
Since then there have been thirteen further rounds of negotiations, ending with Round 14 on 26 May 2023, days prior to Sanchez’s announcement, on 29 May 2023, of a snap general election in Spain being called for 23 July 2023.