Sunday 21 January 2018

Anger in Britain as EU wants to give Spain veto over future of Gibraltar

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged to take action to protect the citizens of Gibraltar. Photo: PA
British Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged to take action to protect the citizens of Gibraltar. Photo: PA

Steven Swinford

Spain will be given an effective veto over the future of Gibraltar after Brexit under plans announced by the EU.

The draft guidelines drawn up by EU leaders state that the Brexit deal will not apply to Gibraltar without an "agreement between the kingdom of Spain and the UK".

The clause has taken British officials by surprise. One said it is "absolutely unacceptable" and gives Spain too much power over the future of Gibraltar.

"One really wonders why the EU has thought it sensible to put in something that's a bi-lateral issue between Spain and the UK," they said.

Spain has already hinted that it will block any agreement on airline landing rights after Brexit, with one diplomat telling the 'Financial Times' that a deal "cannot apply to the airport of Gibraltar".

Andrew Rosindell, the vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Gibraltar, said: "An agreement without including Gibraltar means there can be no agreement.

"British people must and will stand together, we cannot be bullied by Spain, any agreement must apply equally to the whole British family and that includes Gibraltar. There can be no compromise on this."

In the draft negotiating guidelines for withdrawal talks under Article 50, it states: "After the United Kingdom leaves the union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom."

Gibraltar's chief minister has warned the territory should not be used by Spain as a bargaining chip for Britain's Brexit negotiations.

Speaking in New York last October, Fabian Picardo said: "There is absolutely no chance that Gibraltar is going to be bartering its British sovereignty, in exchange for continued access to the European single market or any one of the other advantages we enjoy as members of the European Union."

"The Rock", a British Overseas Territory since 1713 with 30,000 residents, remains a major source of diplomatic tensions.

Last year, a group of UK Tory MPs warned the secretary general of Nato that neighbouring Spain's behaviour towards Gibraltar is a threat to British security and could lead to a "serious" incident at sea.

The MPs wrote to the head of Nato expressing concern over 210 "unlawful incursions" of Spanish state vessels into British Gibraltarian waters. They added that Spain's behaviour as a Nato ally was becoming "increasingly unreliable".

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