The European Union has ignited a fresh row over Gibraltar by labelling it as a "colony" of Britain in new Brexit legislation that will allow British visitors making trips of fewer than 90 days to the Schengen passport-free zone will not need visas, even if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal in place.
The EU parliament approved the measure by 502 votes to 81, with 29 abstentions, paving the way for millions of British holidaymakers to flock to the beaches of the Mediterranean this summer regardless of the outcome of Brexit, after weeks of stalled negotiations and, controversially, after the removal on Monday of British MEP Claude Moraes as the rapporteur.
Moraes, the first British national to be pushed out of an EU job over Brexit, lost his position despite protests from colleagues, who pointed out that he was representing parliament's position.
Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown. There is controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached in light of the relevant resolutions and decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations"
The legislation now includes a footnote which states: "Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown. There is controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached in light of the relevant resolutions and decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations."
The Gibraltar colony footnote was disliked by many EU diplomats, but they decided not to stand against Spain, an EU member state, over a country that has chosen to quit the block. Spain had insisted on the footnote.
The United Nations does legally list Gibraltar as a "non-self-governing territory" under colonial rule, but Britain insists it is part of "the UK family" and that its citizens freely voted to remain British.
Britain's decision to leave the EU has revived controversy over Spain's long-standing claim on the territory, against the backdrop of Spanish elections.
Spanish MEP, Esteban Gonzalez Pons, welcomed the agreement saying it shows that Spain "has obtained the fundamental support of the European institutions in the dispute over Gibraltar."
The UK Foreign Office, however, firmly criticised the footnote in a statement to Euronews, saying that "Gibraltar is not a colony and it is completely inappropriate to describe in this way."
"Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family and has a mature and modern constitutional relationship with the UK. This will not change due to our exit from the EU. All parties should respect the people of Gibraltar's democratic wish to be British," it went on.
The EU said the law should be published in the EU rule book before 12 April "to prepare for a no-deal Brexit on that date".