Spain demands co-administration of Gibraltar after Brexit

After the UK’s EU membership referendum, Spain calls for its flag to be flown over the Gibraltar peninsula, sparking British criticism.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Union flag flies at Europa Point in front of the Rock (rear), a monolithic limestone promontory, and the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque in Gibraltar, south of Spain August 12, 2013.

Spain’s acting foreign minister has called for the country’s claim for joint control with the United Kingdom of the Gibraltar peninsula.

"I hope the formula of co-sovereignty, to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock, is much closer than before," Spain's interim Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish radio on Friday.

"Our formula... is British-Spanish co-sovereignty for a determined period of time, which after that time has elapsed, will head towards the restitution of Gibraltar to Spanish sovereignty," he added.

"It is now a bilateral issue that will be negotiated exclusively between the United Kingdom and Spain."

He repeated the claims after the UK decided to leave the EU and on the eve of Spain’s parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Spanish parties failed to form a new government after December's election. Since then Spain has been governed by the conservative Popular Party (PP) led by acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Located at the southern tip of Spain across the sea from Morocco, Gibraltar, also known as ‘the Rock,’ is a British Overseas Territory under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom.

Drivers wait in line along the road of the Gibraltar International airport to enter to Spain at its border with the British territory of Gibraltar in front of the Rock (rear) in Gibraltar, south of Spain August 9, 2013. 

The peninsula has been under British domination since 1713 (under the treaty of Utrecht) and is home to 30,000 people, mostly British citizens.

Besides defence and foreign policy, Gibraltar is self-governing in all areas. The UK has a military garrison and naval base in the Gibraltar.

Inhabitants can elect their representatives to the territory’s House of Assembly but the British monarch appoints its governor.

In response to Spain’s claim, the UK’s Minister for Europe, David Lidington, said that the UK will stand beside Gibraltar.

"We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against your wishes," he said in a statement.

“Furthermore, the UK will not enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content."

In 2001 and 2002 both countries agreed to an accord to share sovereignty over the Gibraltar.

The accord failed after the Gibraltarians voted it down in a referendum in November 2002, in which they voted to remain as part of the UK.

Unlike the UK, 95.9 percent of Gibraltarians voted on Thursday for the UK to remain part of the EU. Only 832 people voted for the UK to leave the EU. Social media users made fun of these 832 people.

Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who lead a campaign for a remain vote, called for calm in a tweet.

"We have surpassed greater challenges," he said. "It is time for unity, for calm & for rational thinking. Together & united we will continue to prosper."

Julie Girling, the Conservative MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar, indicated her disappointment. "I believe future generations will question our wisdom,” she said.

Gibraltar plays a pivotal role for both Spain and UK. The strategically placed peninsula defends the UK's trade lanes to the East and serves as Britain's only land access to European continent. 

During Franco's dictatorship, the border separating Gibraltar and Spain was closed until negotiatios with the EU commenced in 1985.

TRTWorld and agencies