Gibraltar stuck in stalemate over future as no decision made in Spain’s election

Gibraltar is one of the main victims of the uncertainty created by the Spanish elections.

As the snap elections called by Spain’s socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez resulted in a split parliament with no clear governing majority, negotiations over the future of the Rock in a post-Brexit world will need to wait.

Who will manage to lead a coalition government will also likely swerve the direction of the negotiations with London, as each of the leading Spanish parties have a different position on Gibraltar.

The conflicting stances between the right-wing and left-wing blocs emerged clearly during the electoral campaign, with some placing more attention on Spain’s sovereignty claim over the Rock than others.

Mr Sánchez’ PSOE, which garnered 122 seats at the Sunday’s elections, advocates for reaching an agreement on Gibraltar that creates a zone of shared prosperity for Gibraltar and Campo de Gibraltar, respecting Spain’s legal position when it comes to its sovereignty.

READ MORE: Spanish far-right party is determined to take Gibraltar back from UK

Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s right-wing People’s Party, which won 136 seats, stated in its electoral programme that Gibraltar “continues to be a historic dispute that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner, taking into account all the elements and circumstances”.

The party said to be committed to resuming “a responsible dialogue with the British government to address the process of decolonisation of Gibraltar and the recovery of sovereignty, in accordance with the doctrine established by the United Nations”.

The party is also committed to tackling “the situation that has arisen after Brexit, defending Spanish interests in fiscal, financial, environmental and security matters”, paying “special attention to the movement of people”.

If the PP leader decides to strike a coalition deal with far-right wing Vox, he will be in conflict over the party’s position on Gibraltar.

Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox, which gathered 33 votes on Sunday, vowed to “apply all the international pressure necessary to recover this occupied territory” and to reject any deal not respecting Spain’s sovereign rights over the Rock.

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Gibraltar’s First Minister Fabian Picardo described the outcome of the election as “fascinating” and said it is now a case of wait and see where the election results will lead.

Speaking to Campo de Gibraltar Siglo XXI, he said to believe it likely Mr Sánchez will retain power.

Joseph Garcia, Mr Picardo’s deputy, said to favour the return of the PSOE to the government as he believes it could guarantee the continuation of the ongoing treaty talks.

Since October 2021, Spanish and British diplomats have been involved in 13 high-level rounds of talks.

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Given it is not yet known whether a second round of votes will be needed nor which parties will end up victorious from coalition talks, the Gibraltar stalemate may continue for several weeks, with a deal unlikely to be struck before 2024.

The focus of these negotiations is on the relations Gibraltar will have with the European Union and Spain post-Brexit.

In January, Mr Picardo said that the main priority is agreements on immigration and the movement of goods.

The border separating Spain and the Rock is crossed every day by some 15,000 workers, 11,000 of whom are Spanish. While there is no hard deadline over when an agreement must be reached, locals would welcome a quick solution to quash the growing uncertainty and fears of a hard border.

The majority of Gibraltar residents support remaining under the jurisdiction of the UK.

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