LONDON (AFP) — Brexit minister David Davis voiced Britain’s “steadfast” support for Gibraltar in talks with Spain’s foreign minister in Madrid on Monday amid a bitter sovereignty row over the tiny outcrop.
Davis’s visit to Spain had been planned for weeks, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters in London, although it had not been made public.
Speaking to Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis, Davis “echoed what the prime minister has already made clear in terms of our legal position around Gibraltar and the face that we will be steadfast in our support for Gibraltar,” the spokesman told a weekly briefing.
Davis also spoke with other ministers in Madrid and Spanish investors in Britain and the meetings had been “very friendly and very constructive”, he said.
Dastis earlier on Monday said he had been “surprised” by the tone of some reactions in Britain after the EU last week said that Spain would have a veto on extending any Brexit trade deal to Gibraltar.
The spokesman declined to condemn comments made by senior Conservative MP Michael Howard, who compared the situation to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands which led to a conflict with Britain.
“All that Lord Howard was trying to establish was the resolve that we will have to protect the rights of Gibraltar and its sovereignty,” the spokesman said.
“We have a firm commitment to ensure that the sovereignty and the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar are protected,” he said.
Asked by a journalist if Britain was planning to send a military force to Gibraltar, he answered: “We have been perfectly clear that that isn’t going to happen”.