Spain’s PM faces backlash after suggesting that Brexit could split the island’s sovereignty.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez has said that everyone loses when it comes to Brexit and is said to have sparked a chance to seize control over Gibraltar, which has been a British overseas territory since 1713.
Spain was the last of the 27 states to agree to the Brexit withdrawal agreement during a summit in Brussels. They agreed in the last minute on the condition that Madrid would have a say in the future of the territory. After the summit, Pedro Sanchez said; “This puts Spain in a position of strength in negotiations with the United Kingdom over Gibraltar that we have not had until now.”
However, these comments have provoked furious backlash with Tories claiming Theresa May has ‘sold out’ the citizens of Gibraltar. Currently, 30,000 British citizens live there. As well as backlash from Tories, EU diplomats have also called the claims ‘outrageous’ and ‘silly’.
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo responded to the comments made by Pedro Sanchez; “I can tell Spain now: we are not interested in any dilution of our sovereignty, we are not interested in allowing for even the remotest concession to Spanish sovereignty, jurisdiction or control.”
Pedro Sanchez, who has a minority government in Spain has already been accused of strengthening his position on Gibraltar to aid voting in 2019. On 26th May 2019, Spain will vote in local, regional and European Parliament elections, with a possible general election too.
In the UK, reaction to the deal and Gibraltar is mixed, with many people feeling like the British PM has cast Gibraltar and Northern Ireland aside. Liberal Democrat, Tom Brake said that Theresa May “appears to have cast the people of Gibraltar aside”.
However, it seems that Spain now has the backing of the EU when it comes to Gibraltar and that Brexit poses the biggest shake-up for the sovereignty of the island. Many residents in Gibraltar are nervous about what Brexit means for them, a place which relies on customs duties and offshore finance.
It remains to be seen how the lawmakers in the UK will vote on the deal, which is said to take place before the end of 2018.