The British government has reiterated its support for Gibraltar following the publication of draft EU Brexit negotiation guidelines that include a special Gibraltar clause for Spain that turns the matter into a bilateral issue, a diplomatic position Madrid has been pushing for for several years.
In response to a request from The Spain Report, the British Embassy in Madrid said the government stood by Theresa May's comments in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
"We are absolutely steadfast in our support of Gibraltar, its people and its economy", said Mrs. May.
The EU Brexit negotiating position, published on Friday morning, stipulates that no Brexit deal will be applicable to residents of The Rock—which is British sovereign territory—unless Madrid gives the all clear.
"After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom", say the guidelines.
In October, the territory's Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, told the United Nations that bilateral talks "excluded" Gibraltarians and were a back door to annexation: “These are negotiations and where the only outcome that is acceptable to Spain is the Spanish annexation of Gibraltar, contrary to the wishes of every Gibraltarian”.
Spanish news agency Europa Press, citing "diplomatic sources", reported that the Spanish government thought the EU's stance was "a very good starting point" and that Brussels now backs Spanish interests, and the bilateral perspective on any negotiations, because the UK is leaving.
In parliament on Wednesday, Theresa May said the UK would "never" enter arrangements that go against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar nor "enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content".
"We are clear that [Gibraltar] is covered by our exit negotiations. We have committed to involving Gibraltar fully in the work that we are doing."
Whilst giving Spain a Brexit veto over Gibraltar in the draft Brexit guidelines, the EU said bilateral arrangements with Ireland and Cyprus should be "recognised" and "respected".
The UK's position, said the Embassy, is that the country is looking forward "to beginning negotiations once they have been formally agreed by the 27 member states".
“It is clear both sides wish to approach these talks constructively, and as the Prime Minister said this week, wish to ensure a deep and special partnership between the UK and the European Union.”
96% of Gibraltarians voted to remain in the EU on June 23, 2016, but 99% supported British sovereignty of the territory at a vote in 2002.
Published: 7:00 pm, Mar 31 2017 (link)
Gibraltar Blasts "Predatory" Spain Over New EU Brexit Veto
The government of Gibraltar issued a statement on Friday evening slamming Spain's bilateral veto over the territory as part of the EU's Brexit negotiation plan. "Gibraltar has shamefully been singled out, however, for unfavourable treatment by the Council, at the behest of Spain", said the statement: "in these draft guidelines in respect of the second agreement on the future between the UK and the EU".
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo described the move as the "unnecessary, unjustified and unacceptable discriminatory proposed singling out of Gibraltar", with a "predictably predatory" Spain "trying to get away with mortgaging the future relationship between the EU and Gibraltar to its usual obsession with our homeland". It was, he added, a: "disgraceful attempt by Spain to manipulate the European Council for its own, narrow, political interests".