London: The UK government has said that it will stand up for Gibraltar’s interests after the territory accused Spain of using Brexit to forward its territorial aims, a media report said on Saturday.
After reported lobbying from Spain, the European Union’s Brexit negotiation strategy is that decisions affecting Gibraltar will be run past the Spanish government, the BBC report said. Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said this was “unacceptable”. “This is a disgraceful attempt by Spain to manipulate the European Council for its own, narrow, political interests.”
“Brexit is already complicated enough without Spain trying to complicate it further,” the BBC quoted Picardo as saying. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson held talks with Picardo in an effort to reassure him of the UK’s support. Johnson said: “As ever, the UK remains implacable and rock-like in our support for Gibraltar.”
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An EU source told the BBC the inclusion of the Gibraltar issue in the document had come after lobbying from Spain. However, British Prime Minister Theresa May had not mentioned Gibraltar once in her 2,200-word letter triggering Article 50 (the official process of leaving the EU), starting the Brexit process.
Spain has long contested Britain’s 300 year-rule of Gibraltar. Gibraltarians, who number about 30,000, rejected by 99 per cent to 1 per cent the idea of the UK sharing sovereignty with Spain, in a vote in 2002. However, Spain has continued to press its territorial claim. In last June’s EU referendum, Gibraltar voted by 96 per cent to 4 per cent to remain in the EU.