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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Gibraltar’s Challenges in Border Complexities and Spanish Elections

As more dust settles on the tumultuous post-Brexit landscape, Gibraltar finds itself grappling with complex and multifaceted political and social issues. At the centre lies the disputed sovereignty, with Spain continuing to stake its claim, and both countries now facing new challenges following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Of immediate concern is the future of the Gibraltar-Spain border. While the Brexit withdrawal agreement guarantees an open border, there remain several crucial details to be ironed out. The implementation of customs and immigration checks, as well as the policing of the border, still lack clarity.

Criticism has been levied by the Spanish government against the UK's handling of the Gibraltar negotiations, posing a risk of escalating tensions between the two nations. Notably, the issue has become a prominent factor in the lead-up to the upcoming Spanish general election, scheduled for November 2023.

Photo by Mike Kotsch

The Spanish right-wing Popular Party (PP), presently in opposition, has made Gibraltar a central plank of its election campaign. Demanding the territory's transfer to Spain, the PP has even threatened to escalate the matter to the International Court of Justice should the UK not comply.

The outcome of the Spanish general election holds significant ramifications for Gibraltar's future. Should the PP triumph, a more hardline approach towards the issue could lead to heightened tensions between the UK and Spain. Conversely, a re-election of the Socialist Party (PSOE), currently in government, might pave the way for a negotiated solution acceptable to both sides.

Apart from the pressing border concerns, Gibraltar faces an array of post-Brexit challenges. Losing access to the EU's single market and customs union poses threats to the territory's economy. Additionally, a dearth of skilled workers emerges as a pressing issue, with many people having left the territory in the wake of Brexit.

Further exacerbating the uncertainty is a host of social issues. Economic instability has led to job losses, exacerbating a shortage of affordable housing. This, in turn, fuels tensions between the Spanish and Gibraltarian communities, which compounded by a decline in tourism causes a profoundly negative impact on the lives of those in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar's future remains uncertain. The outcome of the Spanish general election carries profound implications for how these issues will be addressed. The territory and its people now stand at a critical juncture, where astute and decisive governance will be vital in charting a course forward.

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