May Comes Under Pressure to Protect the Rights of Gibraltar

  • Tusk’s stance ‘shameful:’ pro-Gibraltar lawmaker Lopresti
  • Gibraltar seeks deal keeping free movement, market access

Gibraltar Dispute Flares Up in Brexit Debate

Prime Minister Theresa May came under pressure to protect the rights of Gibraltar after European Union President Donald Tusk handed Spain a determining say on whether any Brexit deal will apply to the territory.

Tusk released on Friday draft guidelines for the negotiating stance of the bloc’s other 27 members that caused dismay among the 33,000 residents of the rock at the southern tip of Spain.

“After the United Kingdom leaves the union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom,” he said.

Gibraltar faces an uncertain future after Brexit, with Spanish ministers suggesting they’ll seek joint sovereignty of the territory. While Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly against quitting the EU, it now faces the possibility of losing access to both a source of thousands of workers who cross its border daily and a market for its financial services industry.

“It is shameful that the EU have attempted to allow Spain an effective veto over the future of British sovereign territory, flying in the face of the will of the people of Gibraltar,” said Jack Lopresti, a lawmaker who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gibraltar. “The U.K. Government’s position is clear and will stand. There will be no negotiation over the status of Gibraltar.”

May said on Wednesday that the government is “clear” that the territory is covered by the exit talks, and ministers are “absolutely steadfast in our support of Gibraltar, its people and its economy.”

No Pawn

“We have been firm in our commitment never to enter arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their wishes, nor to enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content,” May said.

The territory’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo has said he wants a Brexit deal that preserves access to the EU’s single market and guarantees that people can freely move across to Spain. Both are at odds with May’s exit stance.

Because Gibraltar isn’t an integral part of the U.K. it has a different relationship with the EU -- unlike Britain, Gibraltar isn’t part of the EU’s customs union -- and Picardo says there’s no reason that should change after Brexit.

“Ministers should listen to the first minister of Gibraltar, who this week said that Gibraltar should be no bargaining chip in, pawn in or victim of Brexit,” Labour lawmaker Mary Creagh said in a statement emailed by Open Britain, which campaigns to soften Brexit. “At the moment, the rock risks being treated as all three.”

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