‘Holding us to ransom!’ Gibraltar’s fury with EU’s Brexit policy exposed

The furious statement was made by Chairman of the Self Determination Group for Gibraltar, Richard Buttigieg, who told Express.co.uk that Spain’s veto over Brexit trade talks is an “undemocratic” policy. The European Council’s Article 50 guidelines state that the EU cannot reach an agreement with the UK over Gibraltar without Madrid’s approval. It states that “after the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom”.

This means the Spanish Government, led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, has a key veto on all potential agreements between Madrid and London.

Mr Buttigieg told Express.co.uk: “It is undemocratic, we should not be speaking of vetoes in this day and age. To bestow upon Spain the power to hold the UK to ransom, it is unjustified and unfair.

“It is understandable for the EU to defend their member state, they are scared of Brexit being a success. I think the EU stance is understandable, but not the best stance.

“I think it should also be saying to Spain that it should not act like a petulant child. I hope the EU will say to Spain that we are not prepared to let you run rush over an agreement over the UK.”

Having challenged Britain’s claim to the territory since it came under UK rule in 1713, Spain still has a key interest in the future of the territory, as approximately 10,000 Spaniards travel to Gibraltar as cross-border workers.

But this also means Gibraltarians are reliant on access to Europe, as the region relies on these workers, as well as money, goods, and services via access to the single market.

This could therefore be used as leverage by Spain in future talks.

In fact, Mr Buttigieg argues that the Spanish Government will use the situation to capitalise on Brexit, and stake a fresh claim for the British territory.

He added: “With the Spanish Government, one would have thought that Spain had bigger issues emanating from Brexit than from Gibraltar.

“But it never ceases to amaze me the obsession the Spaniards have with Gibraltar. I thought Brexit was important enough an issue that they would be thinking of their own issues – trade, tourism, imports and exports.

“But the government in Spain waste no time in raising the Gibraltar issue, so I think what you find from the Spanish government is an outdated attitude towards Gibraltar and the issue of sovereignty.

“They don’t seem to want to accept the democratic wishes of Gibraltar, nor the basic international laws of human rights, and the right of Gibraltarian to define their own future.

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“Therefore, I think Spain will try to take advantage of Brexit somehow to make lives slightly difficult for us.”

The territory has had two referenda on its sovereignty in the past, one in 1967 and another in 2002.

The first asked whether they wished to pass under Spanish sovereignty, in which 99.64 percent voted to remain British.

In 2002, they were asked `Do you approve of the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar?’

This time, 98 percent voted to reject the idea of co-sovereignty.

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