Monday 24 July 2017

King of Spain predicts deal on Gibraltar that will be 'acceptable to all'

King Felipe raised the thorny issue as he addressed MPs and peers in the Houses of Parliament.

Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia take a seat at the Palace of Westminster in London, Britain July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia take a seat at the Palace of Westminster in London, Britain July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
(Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By PA Reporters

The King of Spain has expressed his confidence that his country and Britain will overcome their “differences” over Gibraltar and find a solution “acceptable to all involved”.

King Felipe raised the thorny issue as he addressed MPs and peers at the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament, outside which the flag of Gibraltar was on display in Parliament Square.

The flag’s presence was welcomed earlier at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, who urged Prime Minister Theresa May to remind the King that Gibraltar is British, despite long-standing Spanish claims on the territory.

Mr Rosindell looked on as King Felipe said in the traditional address to both Houses of Parliament that Britain and Spain have a long-shared history and have “frequently stood shoulder to shoulder” as friends, partners and allies, in the best interests of both nations.

The monarch went on: “It is just as true, however, that during our rich and fruitful history there have also been estrangements, rivalries and disputes, but the work and determination of our governments, authorities and citizens have relegated such events to the past.

“I am certain that this resolve to overcome our differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar and I am confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort, our two governments will be able to work towards arrangements that are acceptable to all involved.”

Flags of the overseas territories and dependencies are regularly raised outside Parliament for state occasions such as the King’s visit, and Gibraltar’s flag is placed in the middle because they are in alphabetical order.

Flags of Commonwealth nations were displayed at Horse Guards Parade.

It had been suggested Felipe would raise the subject of Gibraltar in his address to parliamentarians and in the audience to hear him speak were the Prime Minister and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Earlier the Spanish monarch and his wife were the centre of a welcoming ceremony full of pomp and pageantry befitting a three-day state visit.

But the formality of the event, staged on Horse Guards Parade, was contrasted by the informal greeting of the Spanish King.

Felipe at 6ft 5in towered over the Queen and he kissed his distant relative on the cheek and hand when they met.

His wife Queen Letizia shared a conversation with the Queen as they watched the King, escorted by Philip, inspect a guard of honour, the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, on the parade ground.

The royal party later sat down to a private lunch at Buckingham Palace, where the foreign royals are staying, and were joined by the Duke of Cambridge.

Gifts are traditionally exchanged between the Queen and her guests and the monarch was presented with copies of love letters between Princess Victoria Eugenie, Felipe's great-grandmother and Queen Victoria's granddaughter, and King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

The Queen gave Felipe a bound album featuring pages from the Royal Library and Royal Archives. He also received the customary present - a silver framed pair of photographs of his royal hosts.

A Government spokesman said: "We welcome King Felipe's warm speech, in which he reiterated the friendship between our two countries. As the King said, the UK and Spain enjoy an incredibly strong relationship.

"While Gibraltar is an issue on which we do not see eye to eye, our position is clear: the sovereignty of Gibraltar is not up for discussion. The people of Gibraltar have repeatedly and overwhelmingly expressed their wish to remain under British sovereignty and we will respect this.

"As we leave the EU we are committed to working with our partners to secure a deal that works for the UK and the EU and its remaining members, including Spain. And that deal must also work for Gibraltar."

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