SPAIN has admitted it will be “difficult” to gain sovereignty of Gibraltar despite the country’s post-Brexit posturing over ‘The Rock’
New foreign minister Alfonso Dastis acknowledged Spain has little chance of succeeding with its long-held claim over the peninsula if Britain refuses to negotiate.
Spain has sought to exploit last summer’s Brexit vote by offering Gibraltar a joint sovereignty deal in order to protect the territory’s ties with the EU.
But, in his first interview with a Spanish newspaper since being appointed in November, Mr Dastis told El Pais: “I think you have to be realistic, if the United Kingdom does not want to negotiate it will be difficult to carry it forward.”
The minister’s comments appear to mark a climbdown from Spain’s previously aggressive stance following the EU referendum result.
Mr Dastis did, however, insist Spain’s permission would be needed if Gibraltar were to attempt to keep links with Brussels in a separate agreement to the UK’s overall exit deal.
He added: “It would have to be consulted with us. That will require a bilateral agreement between Spain and the United Kingdom.”
Many Spaniards use the EU’s freedom of movement rule to cross Gibraltar’s land border every day in order to work in the British overseas territory.
Gibraltar has feared it will be left at the mercy of Madrid without the EU’s intervention post-Brexit, with its land and sea borders often flashpoints for furious rows with Spain.
But the British overseas territory flatly rejected Spain’s joint-sovereignty proposal – made at a United Nations meeting – in October last year.
Responding to the plan, Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo said: “When it comes to the question of whether we will transfer all or any part of our sovereignty to Spain our answer will never change.
“It is simple: No way, Jose! You will never get your hands on our Rock. Never.”
I think you have to be realistic, if the United Kingdom does not want to negotiate it will be difficult to carry it forward
The UK Government has consistently promised to protect Gibraltar in the face of Spanish threats following the Brexit vote.
Last summer, the Spanish government immediately seized on Britain’s decision to leave the EU to agitate over ‘The Rock’.
Just hours after the EU referendum result, Mr Dastis’ predecessor Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo had claimed Brexit “opens up new possibilities” for Spain to take control of Gibraltar, adding: “The Spanish flag on the Rock is much closer than before”.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has promised to “never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their wishes.”
Source : Express