The Chief Minister of Gibraltar has given a series of interviews expressing disgust at the European Council accepting a Spanish veto over its EU relations in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, vowing that the Rock will be “even more British” after Brexit.
Fabian Picardo explained that “Spain is employing her unhealthy obsession with Gibraltar and bringing it to the table of [what is] a very complex negotiation already” in an interview with Sky News.
“The United Kingdom hasn’t singled out any particular nationality or any particular issue for specific discriminatory treatment … But what the European Council has done by appearing to accept, at least for now, the Spanish position in relation to Gibraltar, is to allow Spain to single out unnecessarily and discriminate against the British people of Gibraltar.
“It’s like, for example, suggesting that Mrs May should say, ‘Well any deal which affects EU citizens won’t apply to Spaniards unless they accept that they’re not going to get their hands on Gibraltar’.”
— Fabian Picardo (@FabianPicardo) March 31, 2017
The Chief Minister was adamant, however, that “Gibraltar is not going to be a political pawn in Brexit [and] neither is it going to be a victim of Brexit. Gibraltar is going to be very prosperous, very successful and entirely British before, during and after Brexit.”
Spain attempted to advance its long-standing claim on Gibraltar, which has been governed by Britain since 1704, the day after the EU referendum, demanding joint sovereignty as its price for continuing to extend EU rights to the territory.
Although Gibraltar voted heavily to Remain in the EU, this demand was quickly rebuffed by the Gibraltarian government: “The position for us is very clear: we will pay any price, we will bear any burden, we will meet any hardship, to continue our exclusive British sovereignty.”
— TRAPESTER ▶ (@trapester) April 1, 2017
Picardo later explained to Hilary Benn’s parliamentary Brexit committee that Gibraltar’s vote to Remain was an attempt to safeguard its position within the UK, not a positive endorsement of the EU.
“The people of Gibraltar didn’t vote on the basis of whether we liked the European Union … Many of the frustrations that people felt with the European Union, those are equally felt in Gibraltar as they might be in the United Kingdom and elsewhere throughout the EU,” he said.
“The people of Gibraltar were voting [Remain] because we were very clear that the minute the result came in, if it was to leave [the EU], Spain would be putting the issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty on the table.”
In his Sky interview, the Chief Minister reiterated his determination that “the future of Gibraltar will not be determined by Spain in any way shape or measure.”
In fact, the former lawyer believes Brexit will leave Spain with less influence on the Rock than before:
“Moving out of the European Union … moves us out of Spain’s orbit – so, actually, now, Spain as one of the 28 [EU member-states] has a say on what happens in the European Union and that applies in Gibraltar.
“In the future, when we’re not part of the European Union, Spain will have absolutely not even one twenty-eighth of a say on what happens in respect of Gibraltar, so Gibraltar’s future is even more British than it is now.”
— LBC (@LBC) April 1, 2017
In a separate interview with LBC, the Chief Minister explained that “What’s upsetting is not that Spain should have sought to include us [in the Brexit negotiations], because Spain is obsessed with Gibraltar; she’ll do anything possible to advance her rancid and medieval claim to Gibraltar. It’s that our other European partners, like the Maltese, the Irish, the Scandinavians, the Germans … should have allowed this to have crept in.”
He has said he is reassured, however, by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary’s commitment to be “ruthless and implacable” in defence of the Rock’s interests.
Gibraltar last held a referendum on sharing sovereignty with Spain in 2002, rejecting the proposal by 98.97 per cent on a turnout of 87.9 per cent.
The result closely mirrored the results of Gibraltar’s first sovereignty referendum in 1967, when residents were given a straight choice between Britain and Spain backed Britain by 99.64 per cent to 0.36 per cent.