Spain triggers Brexit alarm bells with promise to ‘regain sovereignty’ of Gibraltar

Picardo: Nothing will cleave Gibraltar from the UK

Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, EU and Cooperation Arancha González Laya has made clear the country has not renounced the “sovereignty” nor the “co-sovereignty” of Gibraltar after Brexit. She issued the warning during a reply to parliamentary groups before the Joint Commission of the European Union of the Congress of Deputies when explaining the principle of the agreement between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar.

The Spanish diplomacy head has come under pressure from rival political parties about the “lost opportunity” to regain the sovereignty of Gibraltar by taking advantage of Brexit.

But Ms González Laya replied: “We have not renounced sovereignty and, therefore, we have not renounced co-sovereignty.”

The minister had previously said the principle agreement reached with the UK over the Rock following Brexit would allow Spain to “regain control” in matters related to Gibraltar.

After responding to “legitimate demands” of the Campo de Gibraltar and observing that “we went from word of mouth to facts”, Ms González Laya claimed: “We regain control in this area of maximum strategic importance for our country.”

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The Foreign Minister insisted there are “ambitious” objectives in regulatory and fiscal matters to end “distortions”.

She continued to defend the agreement between Spain and the UK on Gibraltar, highlighting the new scenario that presents itself without impacting the “inalienable historical claim” on the Rock.

Ms González Laya said: “For the first time in 300 years, Spain regains prominence in Gibraltar’s affairs and takes the initiative with a clear plan for the future of the Campo de Gibraltar and the Strait area.”

The Foreign Minister also stressed the principle of the agreement between Spain and Britain represents “a turning point in the long history” of bilateral relations with the UK on Gibraltar.

Last month, the UK and Spain struck an initial last-minute deal to keep the Gibraltar land border open after Brexit – just hours before Britain’s full departure from the EU was completed following the end of the Brexit transition period.

Ms Gonzalez Laya said as part of the agreement, the British Overseas Territory will remain part of EU agreements such as the Schengen area.

She added all details of the agreement between London and Madrid will be finalised during a six-month transition.

The two countries had been locked in talks over how to police the land border between Spain and Gibraltar.

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This had been excluded from the post-Brexit trade deal agreed between the UK and EU just a week earlier on Christmas Eve.

Boris Johnson hailed the agreement, and tweeted: “I wholeheartedly welcome today’s political agreement between the UK and Spain on Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU.

“The UK has always been, and will remain, totally committed to the protection of the interests of Gibraltar and its British sovereignty.”

If a deal had not been struck in time, tens of thousands of Spaniards and Gibraltarians who cross every day would have been forced to go through checks and passport stamping.

Ms González Laya warned failure to reach a deal with the UK over Gibraltar would have “consolidated” the separation of British territory and its citizens from the rest of Spain.

Recalling a historic decision made by the Franco regime more than 50 years ago, she said: “No one doubts today that the closure of the Gate in 1967 was negative for our long-term interests.

“Today it would be much more so. If what is intended is another 300 years of demands that are ignored, a no deal would have contributed greatly to this result,”

She warned economy of the Spanish area of Campo de Gibraltar would have been “seriously damaged” in the event of a no-deal outcome as 15 percent of the GDP of the adjacent region “depends on Gibraltar whether we like it or not”.

The Foreign Minister also warned Spain “would have lost its ability to influence and control this territory for at least one generation” without a deal in place with Britain over the Rock.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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