Brexit May Affect British Sovereignty Over Gibraltar

Brexit May See A Very Spanish Future For A Very British Gibraltar

Brexit has taken yet another interesting turn as the European Union bestows Spain more power over the future of Gibraltar, several sources reported on Friday.

According to the leaked draft of the Brexit negotiation guidelines, the European Union has granted Spain the right to veto the British Overseas Territory’s relationship with the bloc. Gibraltar voted to remain in the EU last year, with 94 percent of the first round of local votes supporting the decision.

“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,” reads an excerpt of the guidelines, under Article 50 of the draft.

EU Council President Donald Tusk Shows Letter From British Prime Minister Theresa May
European Council President Donald Tusk shows a letter from U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May at a media conference in Brussels on March 29. [Image by Virginia Mayo/AP Images]

The Guardian reported that the guidelines exclude Gibraltar from any single market access arrangements between the U.K. and EU during the transition, as well as any future trade relationships with the EU “if it is not satisfied with the status of the territory.” The draft of the negotiating guidelines will be finalized by EU27 leaders at the end of April.

In addition, the draft also stated that future trade deals will be decided upon only after Britain has completed its exit. This means transition deals would have to honor the governing EU regulations.

Spain gave up ownership of Gibraltar, which lies on its Southern peninsula, in 1773, but it continues to pursue its claims to the territory to this day. The British Overseas Territory has a population of 30,000, according to the BBC.

In 2002, local citizens of Gibraltar voted over allowing shared sovereignty between the U.K. and Spain. The landslide vote saw 99 percent of the population rejecting the idea.

Earlier today, Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo slammed Spain for its politicking and “its unhealthy obsession” with regaining ownership of the territory. “Gibraltar is not going to be a political pawn in Brexit, neither is it going to be a victim of Brexit. Gibraltar is going to be very prosperous, very successful and entirely British before, during and after Brexit,” Picardo told Sky News.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo
Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo criticizes Spain for taking advantage of Brexit to pursue its claims over the British territory. [Image by Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP Images]

Talks about Gibraltar’s fate surfaced back in 2016 when Britain voted to leave the EU. As previously reported by City A.M., Spain’s former foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo broached the idea for a joint British-Spanish sovereignty for Gibraltar, just hours after the historic Brexit vote. The proposal would have the U.K. eventually handing over the British territory to Spain after a certain period.

At the time, a statement from the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce expressed its disappointment of the vote, yet maintained its loyalty to the British. The statement said, “Despite the overwhelming support from voters in Gibraltar to remain part of the EU, the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce is disappointed by the final decision in the U.K. to leave the European Union. Gibraltar is bound by the U.K.’s decision.”

EU officials criticizing Britain’s move to leave the EU commented that the country had it coming. “The British didn’t give a damn about Gibraltar and they created this situation themselves,” a senior EU official told Reuters. “No one is going to blame the Spanish for taking advantage.”

According to The Telegraph, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May maintained that the U.K. will remain supportive of Gibraltar, and will not yield its control of the territory to any other state without Gibraltar’s consent, or without including the overseas domain in the process.

“Gibraltar is not a separate member of the EU, nor is it a part of the UK for the purposes of EU law, but we are clear that it is covered by our exit negotiations. We have committed to involving Gibraltar fully in the work that we are doing,” the Prime Minister said.

[Featured Image by Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP Images]