Brexit row as Cameron admits British tourists could be refused entry to Gibraltar

David Cameron has admitted that British tourists could soon be turned away by EU Frontex border guards policing the entry into Gibraltar, under a deal to allow “a fluid border” between the Rock and Spain.

The foreign secretary was giving evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee which has raised serious concerns over the impact on UK sovereignty with the proposed treaty.

The row has broken out because of a need for Gibraltar to come to a longer border solution with the EU as a result of Brexit.

Had the UK voted to remain in the EU, the free travel provisions would not have been a problem but with 15,000 crossings a day, the Gibraltan and UK governments are seeking a solution. Gibraltar opposed Brexit with 96 per cent voting Remain.

Lord David Cameron discussed Gibraltar (PA Wire)
Lord David Cameron discussed Gibraltar (PA Wire)

Asked by former Brexit minister David Jones whether EU officials would be able to “refuse access” to British tourists seeking to enter Gibraltar, Mr Cameron admitted: “In future, there would be two sets of checks – one by Gibraltar, one by Schengen – and if there was a Schengen alert, that could be the circumstance.”

Lord Cameron said that there is still a chance that no deal will be signed at all unless it ties in with the red lines of the British and Gibraltar governments.

He told MPs: “If a deal isn’t possibile within our red lines we won’t agree a deal. If the deal isn’t right then we won’t sign it.”

Naming the red lines, Lord Cameron said that the British military base “must continue to operate as it does now”; also “every inch of Gibraltar” remains sovereign UK territory; and finally, the Gibraltar government “fully agrees it”.

Lord Cameron though angered some MPs by saying he supports the Gibraltar government’s push for a “fluid border” which would have it operate as an adjunct to the Schengen Area under free movement rules.

He insisted that this meant EU checks “will need to take place” in Gibraltar but likened it to Eurostar border checks by the French at St Pancras station in London.

However, Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said: “You would accept that a crucial difference is that while the Spanish claim sovereignty over Gibraltar the French do not claim sovereignty over St Pancras yet.”

When pressed by former cabinet minister David Jones, the foreign secretary was also unable to rule out access to Gibraltar by Spanish police “in hot pursuit” or for surveillance purposes which are part of the Schengen accords.

He said: “These are all part of the discussions.”

Rules governing Gibraltar’s border with Spain are understood to be a major sticking point (PA Archive)
Rules governing Gibraltar’s border with Spain are understood to be a major sticking point (PA Archive)

But in a series of clashes with Mr Jones, Lord Cameron insisted that to have a fluid border “required” EU Frontex border guards to be present in Gibraltar and an alternative option of a separate border check on Spanish territory was not viable.

Pointing out that if full Schengen checks come into place that “things will get worse at the border”, he warned: “The status quo is not an option.”

Currently there are about 15,000 daily crossings on the Spanish border with Gibraltar and waits can be as long as six hours.

Lord Cameron accepted that Gibraltans “have every right to be suspicious” of Spanish intentions and he agreed that there had been problems with Spain recently preventing the Red Arrows doing a display on the Rock.

MPs also raised concerns over how a Greek minister recently referred to Gibraltar as Spanish in relation to the talks with the EU.