Spain’s Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, is convinced that Gibraltar authorities will start negotiating a joint sovereignty agreement with Spain in March of next year, when Britain begins its formal exit from the European Union.
The minister made this assertion on Wednesday, after hearing Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo say that Spain will “never get its hands” on the British Overseas Territory.
Gibraltarians will have to choose between “being British outside the EU or Spanish-British within the EU”
Speaking at the Fourth Commission of the United Nations General Assembly, which deals with decolonization issues, Picardo had stated: “No way, Jose! …[Spain] will never get its hands on our Rock,” in reply to a suggestion by the Spanish ambassador to the UN that co-sovereignty would be beneficial to Gibraltar’s economy once it is left out of the EU.
“Not my hands – I will put up the flag, and much sooner than Picardo thinks,” said García-Margallo on state broadcaster RTVE’s radio program La noche en 24 Horas.
The Spanish minister predicted that this flag could go up within the next four years. “They will understand that the sooner a solution is found, the better,” he said.
“The current solution is disappearing, and a new one must be found,” he added, in reference to the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue, a three-way platform for talks between Spain, the UK and Gibraltar that has been on hold for years.
“They’ve even studied the Greenland solution, and they will start to see a formula,” insisted García-Margallo, noting that Gibraltarians overwhelmingly voted against leaving the EU.
When Brexit becomes effective, Gibraltarians will have two choices: “Being British outside the European Union or Spanish-British within the EU.”
Spain’s offer includes letting Gibraltar access the EU domestic market, tearing down the border – la Verja – between both territories, granting residents dual citizenship, and letting them preserve their self-governing institutions. Spain and the UK would jointly manage issues of defense, foreign affairs, border control, immigration and asylum.
García-Margallo also underscored the benefits for workers on both sides of the border – not just Gibraltarians but the Andalusians living in Campo de Gibraltar (Cádiz).
English version by Susana Urra.
Centuries of dispute
Spain claims sovereignty over the Rock, which stands on the southernmost tip of the Iberian peninsula, but has been a British Overseas Territory since the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht 300 years ago.
The 1.2-kilometer frontier between Spain and Gibraltar was closed by dictator General Francisco Franco for most of the 1970s, and remained shut for several more years after his death in 1975.
But the UK government has made clear that it will not negotiate over sovereignty as long as Gibraltar’s people want to remain British.
Under the previous Socialist Party administration, Spain softened its stance, discussing other issues without bringing up sovereignty, while agreeing to give Gibraltar a voice in any talks with Britain over its status. But the conservative Popular Party government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has taken a harder line regarding its claim on the territory.