UK seeks to reassure Gibraltar in Brexit talks

UK seeks to reassure Gibraltar in Brexit talks

The status of Gibraltar in any post-Brexit agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom must have the explicit approval of Spain, according to draft negotiating guidelines issued by the European Council Friday.

"It's predictable that, given Spain's previous behavior, they would try and use Brexit as a fig leaf for trouble-making over the status of Gibraltar", Lopresti said Friday.

"As ever, the United Kingdom remains implacable and rock-like in our support for Gibraltar", he wrote on Twitter.

The EU has effectively handed Spain a veto over the future of Gibraltar in its Brexit negotiating guidelines.

Lord Boswell, chairman of the House of Lords EU Committee, said the government must not give the impression that Gibraltar is an "afterthought".

"It is the UK Government's job to represent the people of Gibraltar, and I was amazed that they failed to do that in the letter that they sent in on Wednesday", she said.

"If the government has overlooked the interests of Gibraltar, which is a crucial part of the constitutional arrangements of our membership of the European Union, then what else are they going to overlook?" she asked on the BBC.

Christian Hernandez, president of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce, told the programme that the British government needed to "stand firm in the face of Spanish bullying".

The clause was included in the negotiating strategy set out by the European Council on Friday, which also said that the United Kingdom must settle its Brexit bill and agree the future of EU citizens in the United Kingdom before trade deal talks could start. Last year, Spain formally presented Britain with a proposal for joint sovereignty of Gibraltar - an offer that nearly everyone on the British overseas territory rejected.

The Prime Minister told MPs that the territory was "covered by our exit negotiations" and vowed never to enter into talks over its sovereignty against the wishes of its people.

Labour's Mary Creagh, a member of the Open Britain group, said supporters of hard Brexit should be "ashamed that their actions have destabilised the situation in Gibraltar", whose inhabitants voted by an overwhelming majority in last year's referendum to remain in the EU.

The clause could be interpreted as handing Spain a veto over the Gibraltar provisions in a post-Brexit deal if they don't like it.

Despite its small size, Gibraltar is strategically important, standing only 12 miles from the north coast of Africa.

Because of this specific cause, Spain will be able to exclude Gibraltar from any UK-EU single market access arrangement if it isn't happy with the territory's status.

Brussels officials were quoted by the Guardian as saying the European Union was standing up for its members' interests. Citizens of the rock - who overwhelmingly reject Spanish rule - will be concerned that the European Union apparently wants to allow Spain to sign off on the Brexit arrangements that concern them. "[The text] recognises that there are two parties to this dispute".

The proposal is part of draft Brexit guidelines setting out the EU's position in upcoming negotiations with Britain over its exit from the bloc, and is likely to add fuel to an ongoing sovereignty row between London and Madrid over Gibraltar.

"This is a disgraceful attempt by Spain to manipulate the European Council for its own, narrow, political interests (.) a clear manifestation of the predictably predatory attitude that we anticipated Spain would seek to abusively impose on its partners", the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said in an e-mailed statement.

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