Spain “could use the issue of Gibraltar to hold the UK hostage” in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, “threatening business with serious disruption”, William Hague, the UK’s ex-foreign secretary, has said, the Financial Times is reporting today.
According to the London-based financial publication, Lord Hague told an audience of manufacturers that it “was vital that Britain and the EU agreed a transitional deal to maintain trading links in the event of a crisis at the end of two years of formal Brexit talks”, noting that Spain, “or any other EU member state could use its power of veto to extract concessions from the prime minister in the final stages of the talks”.
Lord Hague also told his audience, at the EEF (formerly the Engineering Employers’ Federation) manufacturers’ association’s annual lecture at London’s Royal Society, that Madrid might take the opportunity of the Brexit negotiations to stake a claim “for joint sovereignty over Gibraltar”.
The “issue of Gibraltar” referred to by the FT is understood to be Spain’s long-held belief that the land area occupied by Gibraltar, on its southern coastline, should be a part of Spain, not of the UK, even though Britain has claimed sovereignty over it since 1713.
The issue is a constant source of friction between the British territory and the area of Spain immediately around it, and is often brought up by Spanish politicians in EU discussions and negotiations.
As reported here in June, the weekend before the UK vote on the matter of whether or not to remain in the European Union, a group of pranksters said to be from a right-wing Spanish political party crossed the border into Gibraltar and unfurled a giant Spanish flag on the side of Gibraltar’s famed “Rock”, much to the annoyance of the by-this-point already-tense locals.
Elsewhere, in Gibraltar, tensions are running higher than in many other jurisdictions, owing to its fractious relationship with Spain, the southern coast of which it is attached to. Britain has claimed sovereignty over the Gibraltar peninsula since 1713, but Spain regards it as Spanish territory.
The stunt followed a declaration by the Spanish government the week before the vote that Gibraltar would “remain Spanish”, whatever the result.
To read the article in the Financial Times, click here.