EU will define Gibraltar as a ‘colony’ if there is a hard Brexit

Spain has pushed for the dispute over the British Overseas Territory to be included in a footnote in a proposed law on UK traveling rights

Gibraltar seen from the Spanish border.
Gibraltar seen from the Spanish border.Jon Nazca (REUTERS)
Rafa de Miguel

The European Union has agreed to Spain’s demands that Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory in the south of the Iberian peninsula, should be defined as “a colony of the British Crown” in draft legislation regarding travel to the EU without visas in a hard Brexit scenario. British Prime Minister Theresa May considers the move “unacceptable,” a spokesperson for the British leader told EL PAÍS.

Gibraltar is not a colony and it is completely inappropriate to describe in this way

UK government

As part of the preparations for a no-deal Brexit, EU ambassadors agreed to a document on Friday that would allow British citizens to travel to other countries in the EU without a visa for short stays.

Spanish government representatives requested including a footnote in this document indicating: “There is a controversy between Spain and the UK concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached in light of the relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly of the United Nations.” The footnote clearly states that Gibraltar must be considered a “colony of the British Crown.”

The British government has criticized the move, claiming “Gibraltar is not a colony and it is completely inappropriate to describe it in this way. Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family and has a mature and modern constitutional relationship with the UK. This will not change due to our exit from the EU” in a statement to EL PAÍS.

According to The Financial Times, the footnote is the product of a deal struck by Spain and France. The French government was uncomfortable with the original text because it referenced a United Nations list of “non-self-governing territories . . . subject to decolonization” that included French Polynesia and New Caledonia. As a compromise, it accepted a definition exclusively on Gibraltar.

May is tasked with negotiating a deal with the EU that the UK Parliament will accept after the original Withdrawal Agreement was voted down in January . But there are concerns that other countries could take advantage of the new round of negotiations to address unresolved issues, for instance Gibraltar.

The footnote clearly states that Gibraltar must be considered a “colony of the British Crown”

Last November, the Spanish government successfully threatened to veto the Withdrawal Agreement if it was not offered guarantees that all negotiations over British Overseas Territory after Brexit would be conducted between Madrid and London after Brexit. The British government submitted to Spain’s request but since then has made numerous complaints about Spanish pressure. May has maintained Britain’s sovereignty of the Rock on various occasions in parliament and made constant references to the support of the government of Gibraltar, which is led by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

The 2.3-square-mile territory of Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. But Spain believes only the city, castle, ports, defense stations and forts of Gibraltar were legally ceded to the UK. Since the isthmus and the adjacent waters were not included in the treaty, Spain considers them to be occupied, and refuses to recognize Britain’s jurisdiction, which has led to a number of disputes.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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