Published: Sat, April 01, 2017
Finance | By Laverne Griffith

EU Wants Spain To Control How Brexit Affects Gibraltar

EU Wants Spain To Control How Brexit Affects Gibraltar

Spain has long-held ambitions to reclaim Gibraltar after its cessation from the country in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht, and Brexit appears to be an ideal opportunity for Mariano Rajoy's government to bring the issue back to the table.

The document, sent out by European Council president Donald Tusk to the other 27 EU states, said: "After the UK leaves the union, no agreement between the EU and the UK may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without agreement between Spain and the UK".

In a diplomatic victory for Madrid, the 27 other European Union member states have agreed to allow Spain to exclude Gibraltar from any final Brexit trade deal.

This suggests that unless Britain is willing to let its citizens in Gibraltar live with an inferior economic future than those in the United Kingdom, the European Union has effectively handed the Spanish government a veto on Britain's entire future relationship with the bloc.

The Gibraltar question remains a fractious one for the U.K. -Spain relationship.

An EU source told the BBC that Spanish diplomats lobbied to have a veto on Gibraltar's post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

Relations between Spain and Gibraltar have ebbed and flowed over the decades. The Spanish Government wants "joint sovereignty" over Gibraltar, which was claimed by British forces over 300 years ago. This is in the best interest of both sides.

The dispute is over a little piece of land at the end of Spain called Gibraltar.

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Some 96% of Gibraltar's citizens voted to remain in the EU.

Unless Theresa May is prepared to sacrifice the future of Gibraltar's 30,000 inhabitants to secure a good deal for the rest of the United Kingdom then she could have to make concessions to Spain.

This afternoon, the Prime Minister was urged to take action to protect the interests of Gibraltarians.

"We have been firm in our commitment never to enter arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their wishes, nor to enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content", May said.

"Brexit is already complicated enough without Spain trying to complicate it further", he added, branding the proposed singling out of Gibraltar "unnecessary, unjustified, unacceptable" and "discriminatory".

Over in Britain, lawmakers and activists reacted with defiance and concern.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake said the clause showed the Government's Brexit strategy was potentially damaging to the future of the Rock.

But, while the new Foreign Minister's comments will provide some comfort to those who have to cross the frontier into Gibraltar to work, CM Picardo has warned that Spain's sovereignty objective remains unchanged.

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