Published: Sat, April 01, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

European Union offers Spain veto right over Gibraltar after Brexit talks

European Union offers Spain veto right over Gibraltar after Brexit talks

After lobbying from Spanish diplomats, a clause has been inserted in the EU's draft Brexit negotiating guidelines that appears to allow Spain to exclude Gibraltar from any transitional single market access arrangement or future trade deal with the United Kingdom if it is not satisfied with the status of the territory.

AFTER BREXIT, ANY UK-EU DEAL will only apply to the overseas territory of Gibraltar if it gains the explicit agreement of the Kingdom of Spain.

Spain has a long-standing territorial claim on Gibraltar, which has been held by the United Kingdom since 1713 and now has the status of British Overseas Territory.

They were published a day before Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Britain's withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50 of the EU treaty, setting in motion a two-year process after which the United Kingdom - and by extension Gibraltar - will be outside the bloc.

Gibraltar expressed outrage Friday at how it said Spain is using the U.K.'s impending departure from the European Union to force renegotiations on the future of Gibraltar, the territory that Spain has been trying to get back from Britain for 300 years.

"Ministers should listen to the First Minister of Gibraltar, who this week said that Gibraltar should be no bargaining chip in, pawn in or victim of Brexit".

Spain has had long ambitions to reclaim sovereignty over Gibraltar.

"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", he added.

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An EU proposal to give Spain a say over the territory's future has emerged, sparking a furious reaction from British politicians.

It has been a British territory for over three centuries and voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union, with 96% of voters backing Remain.

"The whole world and the whole European Union should know: this changes nothing in respect of our continued, exclusive British sovereignty", he said.

This detail is key as it means Prime Minister Theresa May and acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy may have to hold bilateral discussions over the territory if any points of contention arise during Brexit negotiations.

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's chief minister, called this "unnesessary, unjustified and unacceptable".

The Gibraltar question remains a fractious one for the U.K. -Spain relationship.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake said: "Theresa May must urgently produce a plan that protects the citizens of Gibraltar, including their businesses and communities". For people living in Gibraltar the outcome of the negotiations may have significant, and life-changing, consequences.

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