Spain’s new foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, is flying to the United Kingdom on Wednesday on his first trip since taking up the portfolio in mid-July. Albares, who has replaced Arancha González Laya as part of a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, will have to deal with negative reaction by the UK government and Gibraltar over the European Commission’s draft proposal to start negotiations with the UK on the subject of the British Overseas Territory.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that the mandate, approved by the EU executive on Tuesday, “directly conflicts” with an earlier framework agreed on December 31 by Spain and the UK for the future relationship between the EU and Gibraltar, which is located at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula and has been a recurring source of friction between Spain and Britain.
Raab also said that the European Commission’s draft mandate “seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty” over the overseas territory and cannot form a basis for negotiations about the future relationship between the EU and Gibraltar, which was left out of the Brexit deal, meaning that a separate agreement is required. In the Brexit referendum of 2016, Gibraltarians overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU.
Speaking along the same lines, Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said that in light of the current draft, there is “no possibility for this forming the basis for an agreement.”
A major sticking point is the fact that the mandate only talks about Spanish officers performing border controls at Gibraltar’s entry points, without mentioning the presence of the European agency Frontex, which had been a requirement made by the UK and Gibraltar. Diplomatic sources explained that legally, Spain would at all times be the legal guarantor of those border controls even if it had support from the European agency.
“External border control and surveillance would take place at Gibraltar port, airport and waters carried out by Spain applying the relevant EU rules,” reads the Commission document. “Spanish border guards would have all necessary powers to perform border controls and surveillance.”
Spain would also be in charge of issuing visas. This means that citizens of the UK and third countries wishing to enter Gibraltar would need a visa extended by Spanish authorities. “UK nationals other than those resident in Gibraltar at the time of signature of the agreement would be treated as third country nationals for the purposes of entry and stay in Gibraltar,” reads the draft mandate.
Movement of people and goods
Maintaining smooth circulation between Gibraltar and the neighboring, economically depressed Spanish area of Campo de Gibraltar, home to many cross-border workers, has been a priority for both sides since the UK voted to leave the EU.
In practice, land border checks would be removed and Gibraltar would become part of Schengen, an area of 26 European countries that have abolished border controls, under Spain’s exclusive responsibility: residents of Gibraltar could freely move around Schengen territory for 90 days in any six-month period. The UK is not a part of Schengen.
The negotiating mandate approved by the Commission on Tuesday, which should lead to a UK-EU treaty before the end of the year, seeks to “remove physical barriers to the circulation of persons and goods [between Gibraltar and Spain] to contribute to shared prosperity within the region.”
The document also notes that the EU may unilaterally reinstate physical barriers and controls on the movement of goods in the event of a serious breach of terms by the UK. This clause reflects the Commission’s distrust at a time when British authorities are questioning the Northern Ireland agreement that prevented a hard Brexit.
The mandate also underscores that any agreement reached by the parties will not affect the UK and Spanish positions regarding sovereignty over Gibraltar, which was ceded to Britain in 1713 during the War of Spanish Succession, although disputes over sovereignty and jurisdiction issues remain to this day.
A branch of Canada’s federal police force says it has spent the last decade conducting a “large-scale investigation” into allegations of sexual abuse at a former residential school.
On Tuesday, the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it launched a criminal investigation in 2011, investigating claims that students were assaulted during their time at the Fort Alexander residential school.
The rare disclosure of an ongoing investigation was prompted by questions from the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper.
“Due to the many people affected by this investigation as well as the larger social implications, it was determined to be in the public interest to provide as much information on the ongoing investigation as we can,” the RCMP said in its news release.
At least 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools across the country, which were funded by the federal government and run by churches as part of the campaign to strip the youth of their cultural identity.
The Fort Alexander residential school, 125km (78 miles) north-east of Winnipeg, opened in 1905. Children often tried to run away from the institution, according to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. In 1928, two boys drowned while trying to escape by boat.
It was closed by the federal government in 1970. Elders have long spoken about abuse within the institution, including testifying at the country’s truth and reconciliation commission.
More than 80 RCMP officers have been involved in the investigation so far, which has involved speaking to more than 700 people across North America.
Investigators travelled to Ottawa to scour archival records from the school, as well as the province of Manitoba’s records. They also canvassed residents in the area where the school was located, on the grounds of the Sagkeeng First Nation.
Police obtained 75 witness and victim statements.
Grand chiefs of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization have worked closely with police on the investigation, as have the chief and council of the Sagkeeng First Nation.
In addition to testimony of abuse, survivors have long said children went missing or died while attending the school.
Last week, teams searched the grounds of Sagkeeng First Nation using a drone and ground-penetrating radar technology to look for human remains.
The EU called on Tuesday on Lebanon political leaders to form a government without delay, following the nomination of businessman Najib Mikati as prime minister. “It is now of crucial importance that a credible and accountable government is formed in Lebanon without delay, one that is able to address the severe economic and social crises the country is facing,” the EU said in a statement.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – A Boeing aircraft with 165 people on board is preparing for an emergency landing at Simferopol airport due to technical problems with its engine, an emergency services spokesperson said.
“A Boeing is preparing for an emergency landing in Simferopol, on board of which, according to preliminary information, there are 165 passengers,” the spokesperson said.
The aircraft, which performs a flight from Yakutia to Crimea, had vibration in one of the engines, he added.