Spain’s fight for Gibraltar heats up after Brexit

Queen Elizabeth is projected on the Rock of Gibraltar in background to mark her 90th birthday on April 21, 2016. Spain has made its intentions regarding the British territory very clear.
Image: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/Getty Images

LONDON Spain warned us this would happen.

As it became clear early Friday morning that the UK public had voted to leave the European Union, Spain wasted no time in calling for “joint sovereignty” over Gibraltar, which is a tiny territory of Britain that Spain continues to claim sovereignty over.

“The Spanish flag on the Rock is much closer than before,” Spain’s acting foreign ministerJose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said in a radio interview.

Britain’s Europe ministerDavid Lidington (who surely must be having the craziest day ever), rejected the idea, as did Gibraltar’s chief ministerFabian Picardo.

But surely they must have expected this as Garcia-Margallo has already made it pretty clear that Spain was coming for Gibraltar if the vote went a certain way and even stuck precisely to his timeline for doing so.

In the event of a vote for Brexit, “We would be talking about Gibraltar the very next day,” he told Spanish radio earlier this year.

Friday afternoon Picardo dismissed what the Spanish minister said asirrelevant noises and a “waste of breath,” after starting the day with a calm and rational tweet:

Gibraltar was the first to report its results in the referendum on EU membership. The territory of about 32,000 people voted to Remain by an overwhelming 96%. (It’s represented on Mashable UK‘s Lego Brexit map by the little pirate on the bottom left corner.)

Gibraltar has been a sticking point in British-Spanish relations for, well, hundreds of years. It was captured in 1704 and British sovereignty was established in 1713.

The “joint sovereignty” idea was mooted in 2002 but was wholly rejected in a referendum there. Nowadays thousands of people cross the border between Spain and Gibraltar every day for work, and the Brexit referendum result brings that freedom of movement into question.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.


Add Comment