Gibraltar’s leader has blasted the EU and Spain for using the territory as a bargaining chip – saying they will not be a ‘political pawn’ in Brexit negotiations.
Condemning Spain as having an “unhealthy obsession” with the peninsula, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo hit out at the EU decision to allow Madrid “to discriminate against the British people of Gibraltar” by allowing them to veto any trade agreement secured with Britain from applying to the Rock.
Mr Picardo said: “Gibraltar is not going to be a political pawn in Brexit, neither is it going to be a victim of Brexit.
“Gibraltar is going to be very prosperous, very successful and entirely British before, during and after Brexit.”
He went on to lash out at Spain for pushing at the amendment so early in the process, saying the EU member state was “employing her unhealthy obsession with Gibraltar and bringing it to the table of a very complex negotiation already”.
It comes after Boris Johnson met with the Chief Minister as the bloc gears up for Brexit negotiations.
The foreign minister stood firmly by the overseas territory, saying the UK “remains implacable & rock-like in our support for Gibraltar”.
Mr Picardo meanwhile claimed Johnson was “implacable” in his defence of the rights of Giblatar, and the territory would be “as even more British after Brexit than it is now”
He added: “The whole of Europe will see that Spain is trying to abuse this moment for her own selfish political purposes.”
Spain has repeatedly tried to claim ownership of Gibraltar despite fierce opposition from its 30,000 inhabitants, who have expressed their desire to remain British time and time again.
The EU’s negotiating guidelines, issued earlier today, state: “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.”
The clause applies to any agreement signed after Britain leaves the EU, meaning that a likely transitional deal between the two parties would apply to Gibraltar as well as the rest of Britain.
However, it does threaten permanent future economic ties which EU leaders have repeatedly stressed will take much longer to thrash out and will only be implemented once the UK is no longer a member.
EU sources told Express.co.uk the clause “simply states the situation as currently exists and changes nothing” because Spain would have a veto over any trade deal anyway.
They added Madrid “obviously wants it in there to make a point” but added the wording did not carry much significance in legal terms.
But a British official said the “totally unacceptable” clause had caught Whitehall by surprise, adding: “One really wonders why the EU has thought it sensible to put in something that’s a bi-lateral issue between Spain and the UK.”