Brexit Hands Spain Chance to Reclaim Gibraltar, Margallo Says

  • U.K. leaving EU gives Spain ‘historic opportunity’ on enclave
  • Gibraltar issue has been bone of contention for 300 years

The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union hands Spain its best chance in three centuries to reclaim sovereignty over Gibraltar, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said.

The best formula would be for Spain and the U.K. to exercise joint sovereignty over the territory which would still be able to broadly administer its own affairs, Garcia-Margallo said in an interview Friday with broadcaster Antena 3.

Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo

Photographer: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

The issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty has been a source of contention between Spain and the U.K. since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 placed the territory under British control in perpetuity. Garcia-Margallo claims the U.K.’s upcoming negotiations over a new relationship with the European Union are also an opportunity to change the governance of the enclave -- Gibraltar might otherwise risk losing the full access to Spanish trade and labor that its economy depends on.

“It’s a unique historical opportunity in more than three hundred years to get Gibraltar back,” Garcia-Margallo told Antena 3.

The Gibraltar government has previously criticized Garcia-Margallo for his comments on Spain’s goal of regaining sovereignty over the territory. “Mr Margallo continues to link the ‘Brexit’ negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union with his fantasy of sharing of the sovereignty of Gibraltar,” the enclave’s government said in an Aug. 31 statement.

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