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Thread: Spain-UK sign up for landmark agreement over Rocky problem .

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    Default Spain-UK sign up for landmark agreement over Rocky problem .

    SPAIN and the UK have signed the most important bilateral agreement, concerning the future of Gibraltar, in more than a decade.
    Last Thursday, the governments of both countries officially signed four Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), aimed at reducing inequality, during the Brexit transition period, between the Rock and Campo de Gibraltar, the neighbouring Spanish region in Andalusia, where high unemployment and drug-trafficking are major problems.
    The MoUs address the four most sensitive areas for relations between Spain and Gibraltar: tobacco, the environment, customs and policing co-operation, along with the rights of cross-border workers.
    It represents the first understanding Madrid and London have reached over issues which have created friction, ever since Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.
    An attempt was made in 2006 with the so-called Córdoba agreements, but this was never applied because both parties would not trust each other!
    While the MoUs are a huge step forward, they apply only to the Brexit transition period, which is less than two years long.
    The agreements also state, explicitly, that they do not “change the respective legal positions of the Spanish Kingdom and the United Kingdom, regarding the sovereignty and jurisdiction of Gibraltar”.
    In other words, the Spanish Government cannot use the bilateral framework to push for co-sovereignty of the British Overseas Territory, at least until it expires at the end of the transition period, earmarked for January 2021.
    Importantly, the agreement sets a limit on the price differences between tobacco products sold in Spain and those sold in Gibraltar, where they are much cheaper.
    Gibraltar is the biggest entry point for illegal tobacco products into Spain. Last year, Spanish authorities seized more than 600,000 cartons of cigarettes, which was a 158% rise from 2016, according to official data.
    The text outlines that all parties agree “on the need to reduce the price difference of tobacco products”.
    To achieve this, the Gibraltar Government has agreed to ensure that “the average retail price differential of tobacco products will be no more than 32% greater than the most recently-published Spanish prices for the equivalent tobacco products” by the end of June 2020.
    Currently, the minimum gap is 48%, according to the Foreign Ministry data.
    After years without any agreement on this issue, the Gibraltar Government declares in the MoU that it is “concerned about the health consequences of smoking, and the existence of an illicit trade in tobacco”.
    The rest of the documents cover the exchange of information, and the creation of joint committees to oversee the complex relationship between Spain and Gibraltar.
    Under the new bilateral framework, a Technical and Co-ordination Committee (TCC) will be created to improve co-operation on air quality, water quality and the protection of marine habitats.
    The TCC also includes the possibility of discussing “land reclamation”, which is a reference to a practice in Gibraltar, in which cement and other materials are placed in waters disputed by Madrid and London.
    On the issue of citizen rights, the agreement is definitely vague. The text simply reaffirms that Spanish people living in, or with interests in the Rock, and Gibraltarians in Spain, will not be discriminated against.
    A tax treaty will be added to the MoUs, once it receives parliamentary approval. It plans to reduce what Spain views as unfair competition from Gibraltar, where many businesses choose to be registered because of the lower taxes, even though their activities take place in Spain.
    There are 55,000 registered businesses in Gibraltar… even though it registers just over 30,000 residents!

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