Spain’s outrage over Prince Edward’s ‘deeply unfortunate’ royal visit to Gibraltar exposed

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The UK is currently negotiating a free trade deal with the EU after Brexit became a reality on January 31. However, Spain can effectively veto any proposed trade agreement if they are not happy with the resolution over Gibraltar. This is because The European Council’s Article 50 guidelines state that Brussels 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”.

Previously, the EU was bound to be impartial in matters between the UK and Spain, as both were members of the bloc.

However, now the UK has formally left the EU, Brussels will likely side with the latter.

As tensions are set to rise, with the status of Gibraltar continuing to be a major point of contention in relations between Britain and Spain, unearthed reports shed light on Madrid’s fury at the Earl and Countess of Wessex in 2012.

Eight years ago, Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones, paid a visit to Gibraltar.

As excited residents hung out flags and bunting to welcome the couple, though, Spain’s former Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo rained on their parade, making it clear that the Spanish government was vehemently against the three-day visit.

Speaking to reporters at the end of a conference in Madrid, he said: “I said from the outset that this visit was deeply unfortunate.

“Spain’s reaction is well known.”

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When asked if the Spanish government would take additional steps to protest at the visit, Mr Margallo said: “We have not stopped taking measures.”

It was the second time that he had complained about the royal visit.

The month before, he had referred to it as “unfortunate both in timing and manner”.

Tensions between Britain and Spain had increased due to a dispute over fishing rights off the peninsula.

Spanish fishermen were demanding the right to fish in Gibraltar waters, in breach of a 1999 ruling.

Some 59 Spanish boats based in towns near the Rock were affected by the ban on using their nets there.

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Despite this, residents of Gibraltar were determined to pull out all the stops for the royal couple.

As part of a packed three-day itinerary, the Earl and Countess laid the foundation stone for Gibraltar’s Diamond Jubilee Monument, attended a Queen’s Birthday Parade, toured Main Street in front of thousands of Gibraltarians and visited the headquarters of the British Forces.

They also met the late Aurelio Montegriffo, who had dined with the Queen when she visited Gibraltar in 1954.

Of Spain’s reaction, Mr Montegriffo said: “It is just ridiculous. Everyone here is so excited. Why do they have to be so silly about it”

The month before Prince Edward’s visit, in the shadow of the fishing dispute and the planned royal visit, Queen Sofia of Spain pulled out of attending a Jubilee lunch at Windsor Castle – a move which came at the request of the incensed Spanish government.

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