Spain won't seek to recover Gibraltar in Brexit talks, says foreign minister

Spain won't seek to recover Gibraltar in Brexit talks, says foreign minister

The rocky outcrop was ceded to Britain in 1713

Spain will not “endanger” the UK’s Brexit deal by forcing a change of Gibraltar’s status, its foreign minister has said.

“I won’t make a deal between the EU and the UK conditional on recovering sovereignty over Gibraltar,” Alfonso Dastis told Spanish conservative daily ABC.

European Council Brexit negotiation guidelines, published in March, caused tension by saying that Spain would be given a veto on whether the Brexit deal could be applied to Gibraltar.

Prime Minister May’s response at the time was to say that the Government was “steadfastly committed” to the rocky outcrop and to its 30,000 inhabitants, 96% of which voted to remain in the EU.

Former Conservative leader Michael Howard suggested Ms May would be prepared to go to war to protect the British Overseas Territory, as Thatcher did over the Falklands in 1982

Gibraltar was ceded to the UK in 1713, and is home to 30,000 people who overwhelmingly say they identify as British.

It automatically joined the European Union in 1973 when Britain did, though it did not become part of the customs union.

In his interview on Sunday, Mr Dastis re-asserted: “We will not accept any decision that undermines our own claim or that involves recognising UK jurisdiction on a portion of territory that we did not give away in the Treaty of Utrecht.”

He stood by a joint sovereignty proposal which would give Gibraltarians dual Spanish and British nationality.

Almost 99% of the territory’s residents rejected the idea when it was put to them.

A British foreign ministry spokesperson told AFP news agency that the government is committed to “fully involving” Gibraltar as tough Brexit negotiations get under way.

"The UK stands by its assurances to Gibraltar never to enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes," she said

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