The Gibraltar government have restated their position that they are not to be a bargaining chip in Britain’s Brexit negotiations, and are certain they wish to remain part of the Kingdom, as the row over Spain’s posturing over the rock continues to ruffle feathers.Speaking out on Spain’s move to seize Gibraltar as leverage for the European Union’s Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom as it moves to withdraw from the bloc, chief minister of the British Overseas Territory Fabian Picardo made his views clear in the strongest terms in an interview with Reuters.
Lashing out at recently re-selected EU president Donald Tusk who is overseeing the Brexit negotiations, Mr. Picardo said: “Mr Tusk, who has been given to using the analogies of the divorce and divorce petition, is behaving like a cuckolded husband who is taking it out on the children.”
Referring to the fact that the majority of Gibraltarians voted to remain in the EU but had no interest in being divorced from Britain to be ruled by Spain, Mr. Picardo continued: “We are not going to be a [bargaining] chip and we are not going to be a victim of Brexit as we are not the culprits of Brexit: we voted to stay in the European Union so taking it out on us is to allow Spain to behave in the manner of the bully.”
The Falkland Islands and a dozen other territories are, like Gibraltar, sovereign parts of the United Kingdom, but are not automatically part of the EU — only Gibraltar has that distinction. Leveraging this difference to their advantage, the EU surprised Downing Street on Friday by declaring that any Brexit deal agreed with the UK wouldn’t automatically apply to Gibraltar too, and any such deal would be subject to a veto by Spain.
The move suggests Brussels has de-facto sided with Spain over their territorial claim over Gibraltar, which they ceded to Britain in 1713 but later desired to re-claim. Wishing to settle the dispute, the British government held a referendum of Gibraltar residents in 2002 which asked whether they would accept Spanish co-rule. Over 98 per cent rejected the notion.
Mr. Picardo said the paragraph excluding Gibraltar from negotiations and handing their fate to Madrid should be cut out of the EU’s draft letter of reply. “Removal of the reference to Gibraltar would be a sign of good faith and good will,” he said.
A spokesman for Downing Street said of the spat: “The Prime Minister said we will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, nor will we ever enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.”