The future rights over who governs Gibraltar lie at the heart of a compromised Brexit deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union, after it was revealed that British Prime Minister Theresa May had accepted ‘conditions’ imposed by her Spanish counterpart relating to the controversial UK outpost.
UK PM who held preparatory talks with EU leaders on Saturday evening, has, according to reports, removed a possible veto from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who had threatened to oppose the deal, unless the UK underscored Spain’s say in the future of the disputed British territory of Gibraltar.
More than 90% of citizens in ‘The Rock’, which lies at the southern tip of the Mediterranean, voted to remain in the EU – the highest percentage of all UK outposts. Gibraltar – a key financial services centre – is seen as an important outlet for the UK and for Spain and sees thousands of Spanish workers cross the borders into Gibraltar with very basic passport checks currently in place.
Spain wants the control future of the tiny territory, which was ceded to Britain in 1713, but has still remained coveted by Spain, will now be a bilateral issue between Madrid and London, not between Britain and the EU as a result of Spains demands.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk assured Sanchez that Spain’s “prior agreement” would be needed on matters concerning Gibraltar.
“Europe and the United Kingdom have accepted the conditions imposed by Spain,” AP reported that Sanchez said. “Therefore, as a consequence of this, Spain will lift its veto and tomorrow will vote in favour of Brexit.”
Following the claims Briatin issued a statement to clarify the existing state of affairs in which the UK PM said Britain had conceded nothing on the sovereignty of Gibraltar.
“I will always stand by Gibraltar,” May said. “The UK position on the sovereignty of Gibraltar has not changed and will not change.”
While no change have been made to Gibraltar’s sovereignty, the move to concede a greater Spanish involvement, to allow this Brexit deal to be based, will no doubt sound alarm bells to the many fiercly loyal Gibraltar-based UK citizens.
With an EU agreement in place May now faces the difficult task of selling the terms of the deal to a recalcitrant UK parliament and a nation that is still split over under what conditions or, indeed, whether the UK should leave the EU on March 29, 2019 at all.