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Cross-border Gibraltar workers to retain free movement even after Brexit, Spain says

·1-min read
Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha Gonzalez Laya speaks as she attends a meeting with Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall during her visit in Dakar

MADRID (Reuters) - Cross-border workers who commute between Gibraltar and Spain will be exempt from border controls after Brexit even if no agreement on free movement is reached with Britain, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Monday.

Madrid and London are negotiating how to police the land border between Spain and Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, as it is excluded from the last-minute exit deal reached between Britain and the European Union last week.

"Our biggest priority is to prevent the Gibraltar border from becoming a hard border," Gonzalez Laya told a news conference.

However, even without a deal, there will be provisions in place for those who work on one side of the border and live on the other.

"Cross-border workers who have registered their status before 1 January 2021... will be able to cross by identifying themselves with a document prepared for this purpose," she said.

Other travellers will need to have their passport stamped.

About 15,000 people commute daily from Spain to Gibraltar, which has a population of 32,000. The port also welcomes some 10 million tourists per year, a sector accounting for about a quarter of its economy.

Spain will continue to assert its claim to sovereignty over the territory, ceded to Britain in 1713 after its capture during the War of the Spanish Succession, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, Gonzalez Laya said.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro, editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)