Spain’s King Felipe VI called for the British and Spanish governments to redouble their efforts to find “satisfactory” formulas for all over the issue of Gibraltar, during a speech made on Wednesday afternoon before a joint session of the House of Commons and the House of Lords in London.
The speech came on the first day of the Spanish royals’ state visit to the United Kingdom, and was delivered in English by the 49-year-old monarch. Directly addressing the thorny issue of the British overseas territory, located in the south of Spain, King Felipe said that “during our rich and fruitful history there have also been estrangements, rivalries and disputes, but the work and determination of our governments, authorities and citizens have relegated such events to the past.
If the size of the welcome serves to gauge the importance of the head of state being received, Felipe VI’s visit must be historic
“I am certain that this resolve to overcome our differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar and I am confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort, our two governments will be able to work toward arrangements that are acceptable to all involved.”
The king also called for solutions so that any deal on Brexit – the United Kingdom’s planned withdrawal from the European Union – guaranteed the “necessary confidence and certainty” needed by the hundreds of thousands of Spanish citizens who live in the UK and the Britons who reside in or visit Spain.
Pomp and ceremony
At the start of their state visit, the king and queen of Spain were received in London on Wednesday by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at an elaborate formal event on Horse Guards Parade in the political district of Westminster, after they had already met with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. An avenue lined with Commonwealth flags, cavalry, bagpipes, drums, bugles and gleaming cutlasses awaited the royals.
The arrival of King Felipe and Queen Letizia was also accompanied by a 41-gun salute from Green Park, and another 41 from the Tower of London. If the size of the welcome serves to gauge the importance of the head of state being received, then Felipe VI’s visit must be historic. Queen Elizabeth had pulled out all of the stops for the event. Nothing was missing in London on Wednesday: there was the threat of rain, wind, cold and even the odd ray of sunshine.
As well as the queen and the duke, a delegation led by the prime minister, Theresa May, was also there to receive the Spanish royals. Later in the day, King Felipe and Queen Letizia had lunch in Buckingham Palace, before visiting an exhibition of Spanish artworks from the Royal Collection in the Picture Gallery. There was also an exchanging of gifts.
Before heading to the British parliament, the king and queen met with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to have tea in their London residence, Clarence House.
Tonight Queen Elizabeth will be holding a gala dinner in Buckingham Palace in honor of the royal couple, at which all the members of the British royal family will be present – something that is not often seen during such state visits. Around 150 invitees will be present, including Spanish and British business leaders who have interests in both countries.
On Thursday night, the London Eye – the giant Ferris wheel located in the British capital – will be lit up with the colors of the Spanish flag.
This trip is the first state visit to be made by the Spanish royal family since 1986, when King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía traveled to London, just when Spain was joining the European Union. Now, of course, the visit is taking place at a time when the commercial and social relationship between the two countries is set to be affected by the UK’s exit from the EU.
English version by Simon Hunter.