Spain may block Brexit over Gibraltar
The UK government has been irked by the European Union’s designation of the Mediterranean port of Gibraltar as a British ‘colony’ as new hostilities emerge between London and Brussels in the midst a controversial Brexit process.
“Gibraltar is not a colony and it is completely inappropriate to describe in this way … Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family,” said a British government spokeswoman on Saturday.
The comments came a day after top EU diplomats signed off on a legislation on visa-free travel for British and EU citizens after Brexit which placed people in Gibraltar in a different category.
Britain’s ambassador to the EU had also objected the wording of the text ratified on Friday which spelled out Spain’s claim to sovereignty over “The Rock” at the United Nations.
“Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown. There is a controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar,” said the text although it gave the Gibraltar citizens same travel rights to the EU as people in the UK.
The UK government managed to reclassify Gibraltar, a former southern Spanish territory ceded to Britain in 1713 after a war, as a “British overseas territory” in 2002. For decades before that, the EU had called the territory a “crown colony”.
However, Spain has revived its full claims over Gibraltar since a referendum in 2016 in which Britons decided with a narrow majority to leave the EU.
That comes as an overwhelming majority of people in Gibraltar voted to stay in the EU in the vote although they mostly want to remain part of Britain.
EU sources said on Saturday that the bloc would favor Spain over Gibraltar after Britain’s withdrawal.
“The Union position … was the British position … But with Brexit, the Union position is now the Spanish position. We will always take the side of a member against a non-member,” said an EU official.
Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29 although the government has yet to secure a withdrawal agreement in the parliament to avoid a disorderly exit.