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‘Significant progress’ in talks with Spain on Gibraltar: UK foreign minister

Britain and Spain have made “significant progress” in talks over an agreement to secure Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in Madrid Wednesday.

“Significant progress has been made.. including (in) discussions on the text of the treaty and its implementation,” he told reporters at a joint press conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.

Although Brexit threw Gibraltar’s future into question, raising fears it would create a new “hard border” with the EU, negotiators reached a landmark framework deal for it to benefit from the rules of the Schengen zone just hours before Britain’s departure from the bloc on January 1, 2021.

Negotiators from Britain, Spain and the EU have been meeting to thrash out the details of the agreement in order to ensure freedom of movement along the border of this tiny British enclave, which is located at Spain’s southern tip.

“We were discussing how this could unleash an unprecedented level of economic growth for all those in the region,” the British minister said after several hours of talks with Albares, which were to carry on into the evening.

“We are fully invested in agreeing a deal as soon as possible,” he added, expressing confidence it was possible “to agree a treaty that protects our respective positions on sovereignty”.

Gibraltar’s economy provides a lifeline for some 15,000 people who cross in and out to work every day, most of whom are Spanish and live in the impoverished neighbouring city of La Linea.