British Prime Minister Theresa May and Felipe VI of Spain met at 10 Downing Street on Thursday to discuss bilateral relations as part of the Spanish monarch’s three-day state visit to the United Kingdom. May welcomed Felipe VI outside the official residence before going inside, where she praised her guest’s address to parliament a day earlier.
But prior to the meeting, Downing Street underscored that the sovereignty of Gibraltar, the disputed overseas territory in the south of Spain, is not up for debate. The reminder came a day after Felipe VI encouraged dialogue between Madrid and London to find a mutually acceptable solution to the ongoing dispute.
“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,” said Felipe on Wednesday before a joint session of parliament.
But government officials noted that, while Britain and Spain enjoy a strong relationship, Gibraltar is an issue “on which we do not see eye to eye; our position is clear: the sovereignty of Gibraltar is not up for discussion.”
Following the meeting, a Downing Street spokesperson said that “the Prime Minister welcomed the king’s warm speech in Parliament yesterday, in which he reiterated the friendship between our two countries, and she agreed that the UK and Spain enjoy an incredibly strong relationship.”
“The prime minister highlighted the scale of Spanish investment in the UK as a sign of the depth of our commercial ties. They agreed on the importance of standing up for free trade, and also highlighted the significance of our close cooperation on security and counter-terrorism,” added the release.
I’m delighted to welcome further Spanish investment into the UK today, as we remain Spain’s number-one destination in Europe for direct foreign investment
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox
Regarding Brexit, “the prime minister said that we will seek a new, deep and special partnership with the whole EU as we leave, and that we are committed to ensuring we strengthen the bilateral ties between our two countries. She said we have made it a priority in the negotiations to guarantee the status of Spanish and other EU citizens living in the UK as part of a reciprocal deal that also provides the same certainty for UK citizens living in Spain and other EU countries.”
There are currently more than 300,000 Britons living in Spain, and around 130,000 Spaniards living in the UK.
Day two of the monarchs’ state visit began on Thursday morning with a business forum at Mansion House meant to highlight the high levels of Spanish investment in Britain. Spain is also the 10th largest export market for UK companies, according to British government figures.
“I’m delighted to welcome further Spanish investment into the UK today, as we remain Spain’s number-one destination in Europe for direct foreign investment,” said International Trade Secretary Liam Fox ahead of the UK-Spain Business Forum.
Downing Street noted that on the same day, Spanish manufacturer CAF announced plans to build trains and trams at a new factory in South Wales, where it will invest £30 million and create 300 jobs.
Meanwhile, Spanish airport operator AENA is participating in expansion work at Luton airport, where it has a majority stake; and Spanish steel producer Gonvarri Steel Services, part of the Gestamp Group, is building a £26 million factory on a Steel & Alloy Processing site in Oldbury.
Also on Thursday, the royal couple visited Westminster Abbey for a traditional tribute before the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The guests of honor also stopped at the tomb of Eleanor of Castile, a daughter of King Ferdinand III of Castile who married the future Edward I of England in 1254. Felipe VI and Letizia’s eldest daughter carries the same name in its Spanish version, Leonor.
On Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth honored Felipe VI and Letizia with a banquet at Buckingham palace. Britain has been putting on a great display of pomp and ceremony on the occasion of this state visit, the first by a Spanish monarch since 1986.
English version by Susana Urra.