The government of Gibraltar has condemned demands from Spain that it not be included in negotiations for the UK's exit from the EU.
Gibraltar’s government has condemned the European Union and Spain for using Brexit as a reason to throw the territory’s link to the UK, which dates to 1713, into doubt.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory and uniquely, the only such territory to be part of the European Union. (Other such territories, such as Bermuda and British Virgin Islands aren’t affected by Brexit in this sense.) Gibraltar overwhelmingly opposed the UK’s departure from the European Union, fearing that its exit might encourage Spain - which has long sought to take the territory - to press its claim. Even before last June’s referendum - which saw a victory for Brexit - Spain had sought to put pressure on Gibraltar’s status. UK political figures, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have said there will be no change to Gibraltar’s sovereignty without Britain’s consent.
Late last week, European Council draft guidelines, drawn up as the UK submitted its formal note for exiting the EU, included a reference to Gibraltar as an issue.
“The exit negotiations clearly include Gibraltar despite Spain’s attempts to also have Gibraltar excluded from them,” a statement from Gibraltar’s government said. “Gibraltar has shamefully been singled out, however, for unfavourable treatment by the Council, at the behest of Spain, in these draft guidelines in respect of the second agreement on the future between the UK and the EU.”
“This unnecessary, unjustified and unacceptable discriminatory proposed singling out of Gibraltar and its people was the predictable machination of Spain that the people of Gibraltar foresaw and one of the reasons why we voted so massively to remain in the EU. Gibraltar’s record as a member of the EU is an exemplary one and our people enthusiastically supported continued membership of the EU in the referendum. Yet this draft suggests that Spain is trying to get away with mortgaging the future relationship between the EU and Gibraltar to its usual obsession with our homeland,” Picardo said.
“This is a disgraceful attempt by Spain to manipulate the European Council for its own, narrow, political interests. Brexit is already complicated enough without Spain trying to complicate it further. “What we are seeing is a clear manifestation of the predictably predatory attitude that we anticipated Spain would seek to abusively impose on its partners, as they have been threatening to do since the referendum took place and as the only member of the EU with an obsession with Gibraltar,” he continued.
“This will surprise no-one. Spain has been holding the whole EU to ransom on aviation matters for the past five years in respect of Gibraltar airport. The whole world and the whole EU should know: this changes nothing in respect of our continued, exclusive British Sovereignty. The fact is that during and beyond the Brexit process, Gibraltar will continue to grow and prosper economically and will, paradoxically, provide wealth for the whole Spanish region around us,” he added.
The issue also highlights how a number of international financial centres have had, or still have, jurisdictional links to the UK but where other nations have had rival claims, such as, most notoriously, the Falkland Islands. In another example, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 by the UK, ending years of wrangles about control of the former British colony.