UK And Spain Agree To Strengthen Ties

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez have agreed to continue strengthening ties between their two countries during this year’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Brussels. A press release from the British Prime Minister’s office stated that Johnson and Sánchez “discussed their shared commitment to deepening the already strong UK-Spain bilateral relationship across a huge range of issues including trade, defence and security,” as well as combatting COVID-19.

The two leaders also revived talks about the status quo of Gibraltar in the wake of Brexit. A British territory located in the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar and the question of its sovereignty has been a point of contention between the UK and Spain since the early 1700s when the territory fell into the hands of the British during the War of the Spanish Succession. Both Johnson and Sánchez reaffirmed their commitment to upholding their most recent agreement on Gibraltar, which was signed shortly before the United Kingdom made its full exit from the European Union last December.

The agreement had called for parts of the EU’s Schengen Agreement to be applied to Gibraltar once Brexit was complete. According to The Guardian, this meant that movement between Gibraltar and the EU would be free and that the EU’s Frontex border agency would be placed in charge of border checks, with Spain serving as a guarantor. It is hoped that by promoting border fluidity, the agreement would relieve some of the pressure from Brexit’s changes and pave the way towards a follow-up agreement with the EU that would continue to improve the livelihoods of those in the region.

Additionally, Prime Minister Johnson expressed his desire to work with Prime Minister Sánchez on climate change policy again at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26 Summit), which would be hosted in the UK this November. The two leaders had worked together during last year’s COP25 Summit in Spain, and they both agreed that “large economies have an essential role to play in helping low and middle-income countries to grow their economies in a green and sustainable way,” according to the British Prime Minister’s press release.

Overall, Prime Minister Johnson and Prime Minister Sánchez’s meeting at this year’s NATO Summit reaffirmed the UK and Spain’s strong diplomatic ties to the rest of the international community. The meeting also made it clear that the two countries were willing to go even further and deepen their current relationship – more specifically by addressing historically contentious issues between them, such as those regarding Brexit’s impact on Gibraltar. In addition, the UK and Spain both showed a commitment to tackling climate change and working to make more progress towards a greener future. The alliance between these two countries should be welcomed, as their efforts show an adherence to the peaceful qualities of diplomacy, which should be applauded and encouraged around the world.

With all diplomacy and peace talks, the results will all come down to action. Whether the UK and Spain will heed their own words in a few months is a matter that will stand the test of time. However, the reaffirmation of agreements made regarding Gibraltar sound promising for the future of UK-Spain relations. It is a step in the right direction and represents a commitment by both the UK and Spain to achieving peace. While they are limited, developments between the two countries should be monitored for now, including the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26 Summit) occurring later this year, which will hopefully prove to be successful and give us at least an indication of progress being made to combat climate change.

Muna Khalidi