Madrid and London are in the process of negotiating an agreement on defence and security, which will also cover “measures of trust” relating to Gibraltar.
Spain officially considers Gibraltar to be a colony and has long argued for its ‘decolonisation’ by the UK. Consequently, relations outside of the necessary levels of cooperation justified by the two countries’ membership of both the EU and NATO, have often been fraught.
However, Brexit has paved the way for a bilateral deal between Madrid and London over Gibraltar in order to avoid a hard border in the territory. In turn, this deal appears to have paved the way for the ongoing negotiations on a new agreement on defence and security cooperation.
Currently, NATO’s Standardised Agreement (STANAG) 1100 defines the procedures for visits to NATO ports by member countries’ naval ships. The agreement, however, includes a reservation by Spain that prevents NATO ships from visiting Spanish ports directly before and after visits to Gibraltar. Moreover, any military aircraft landing in, or taking off from, Gibraltar’s airport are forbidden by Spain from using its airspace.
Unsurprisingly then, there are no direct contacts between British forces in Gibraltar and their Spanish allies beyond the border, or between the respective ministries of defence.
It is still unclear what exactly an agreement on defence and security cooperation might include.
It is still unclear what exactly an agreement on defence and security cooperation might include. If the negotiations are to succeed, however, they will certainly have to feature a number of points on the current restrictions imposed by Madrid to the British military and to NATO allies wishing to call at Gibraltar. The question is: what will the UK offer in return?