Spain diplomat, Brexit official talk Gibraltar

Ross Houston
April 5, 2017

The dispute escalated since the circulation of the EU's draft Brexit negotiating guidelines on Friday appeared to offer Spain a right of veto over Gibraltar's future trade relations with the bloc. Gibraltar residents overwhelming voted for the Remain side.

The Spanish naval incursion follows the country's foreign minister Alfonso Dastis telling the United Kingdom to calm down after former Tory leader Lord Howard suggested Prime Minister Theresa May might be ready to go to war to keep Gibraltar British.

Also on Monday, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said that Madrid "is a little surprised by the tone of comments coming out of Britain, a country known for its composure".

"After March 30 2019, absent an extension, any Spanish person working in Gibraltar will not have the benefits - if Spain gets its way - of any trade deal that might bestow benefits for workers".

"I think Spain has made a huge error of judgment not just in putting this early on, but in effect denying their own citizens the application of that deal if they work in Gibraltar going forward", he said.

Gibraltar is an enclave of 32,000 people on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula that was ceded to Britain by Spain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Howard's comments followed an interview on Sunday by Michael
Fallon, the UK's defence secretary, in which he said: "Gibraltar is going to be protected all the way because the sovereignty of Gibraltar can not be changed without the agreement of the people of Gibraltar and they have made it very clear they do not want to live under Spanish rule".

The UK Government has refused to distance itself from his remarks and warned that the UK would "never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state". The meetings are part of London's preparations to leave the EU.

The country's foreign minister Alsfonso Dasti said this morning: "It's not the Spanish Government's job to respond to each and every British politician past or present".

Picardo said the European Union should remove the reference to Gibraltar from the draft guidelines.

The Scottish independence drive - now resuscitated by the prospect of Britain's departure from the European Union - is highly controversial in Spain because of the secessionist movement in Catalonia.

Britain will wait until the end of the month to find out what guidelines the other members of the European Union have agreed regarding issues such as Gibraltar, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said on Monday.

Thousands of people cross the Spain-Gibraltar frontier in each direction for work, and the Spanish government has said that it will ensure the border remains open.

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