Madrid risked blocking Britons from being offered visa-free travel in Europe in yet another power grab for the Rock. EU leaders have been infuriated by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez’ effort to snatch back the British overseas territory, which Madrid has disputed ownership of since 1713. But this didn’t stop an effort to disrupt Brussels’ plans to offer Britons a visa waiver in the event of no deal.
The legislation, which contained the controversial footnote referring to Gibraltar as a “colony of the British Crown”, had already been approved by the European Council and Commission and was being held up only by Mr Moraes’ efforts in the Parliament.
Celebrating their success, a Spanish government spokesman said: “This is the first time the European Parliament and the member states have recognised that Gibraltar is a colony.
“It’s a great step forward for the position and claims made by Spain.”
Gibraltar was considered a “crown colony” when Britain joined the European bloc in 1973, but was reclassified by London as a “British overseas territory” in 2002.
The decision caused outrage on the Rock, whose citizens have voted in two referendums since 1967 in a display of support for British sovereignty of the peninsula.
A spokesman for Gibraltar’s government said: “In this case it is obvious that extreme pressure exerted by Spain and the bullying tactics of Spanish MEPs, on purely nationalistic grounds, has led to the acceptance of the ‘colony’ language in relation to Gibraltar. This is a disgraceful state of affairs.”
Ashley Fox, Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, said: “Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory with its own government, not a colony. And its people have made it crystal clear that is how they want to remain.
“Spain and the EU can posture all they like, but Gibraltar’s sovereignty is not negotiable. It is disappointing they were willing to jeopardise their citizens’ right to visa-free travel post-Brexit in order to make this futile gesture.”
Tory MEP Daniel Dalton, who voted against the controversial footnote, added: “This politically motivated affair undermines the EU’s standing as a union that claims to champion democracy, self-determination and human rights around the world. It has allowed the Spanish government to hijack European legislation for its own ends as it heads into a difficult domestic election.
“It is vitally important that we protect the right of UK and EU citizens to continue travelling visa-free in the event of a no deal Brexit. But we could not vote for this report and accept a claim on part of our territory. The people of both Britain and Gibraltar would have expected nothing less of us.”
MEPs from both of Spain’s major parties supported the controversial footnote ahead of the upcoming national election, which is scheduled for April 28.
As part of its political posturing, Madrid has already secured a veto over whether any future Brexit deal can be applied to Gibraltar once Britain leaves the EU.
As a result of Tuesday’s passed no-deal Brexit plans, Britons will be able to visit the EU for up to 90 days without a visa but only if Britain reciprocates.
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