Monday, 25 September, 2017

Britain says only Gibraltar, UK people can decide future

Sovereignty of Gibraltar remains unchanged- Britain's Johnson Today 4:29 am Sovereignty of Gibraltar remains unchanged- Britain's Johnson Reuters Reuters
Juana Turner | 16 April, 2017, 01:39

A Spanish Navy patrol ship has made an illegal incursion into United Kingdom waters off the coast of Gibraltar. It came after a former leader of the UK's ruling Conservative Party, Lord Howard, said she might be ready to defend the territory just like Margaret Thacher once did over the Falklands. "I am absolutely certain our current Prime Minister will show the same resolve".

A Number 10 spokesman insisted that the deployment of a Falklands-style taskforce "isn't going to happen", adding: "All that Lord Howard was trying to establish is the resolve that we will have to protect the rights of Gibraltar and its sovereignty".

Britain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, speaking to reporters in Brussels yesterday morning, repeated the UK's sovereignty commitment to Gibraltar.

That prompted a fierce reaction from the government of Gibraltar, which fervently wants to remain part of the United Kingdom, and senior Conservatives, who argued that the territory shouldn't be used as a bargaining chip in the Brexit talks.

Moves by the European Union to offer Spain a veto over Gibraltar's future trade relations with the bloc triggers fury in the UK.

The Spanish government is a little surprised, actually, by the tone that has been generated in Britain, a country traditionally known for its composure.

The EU's stance could force a dialogue in which Madrid might have the upper hand, although the Spanish government has said that it will ensure an open border for European workers who are key to both Gibraltar and the neighboring area in southern Spain.

The EU's draft negotiating document on Brexit, published on Friday, suggested that Gibraltar could only be part of any future trade deal if Spain gave its approval. He told the Andrew Marr Show: "I'm not thrilled that we are in the situation in which we are - Gibraltar voted 96% to remain".

"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", the guideline said.

In a 2002 referendum, 99 percent of Gibraltar voters said they preferred British, and not Spanish, rule.

Spain has long sought to regain control of the strategic territory that it has longed to reclaim since ceding its control to Britain in 1713.

Downing Street sources had played down the seriousness of the line in the draft guidelines, which will be expanded over the coming month, but European Union officials told the Guardian over the weekend that Brussels had been surprised May did not mention Gibraltar in her six-page letter beginning the formal two-year exit process.

A spokesman for Spain's foreign ministry said Spain did not recognize the waters as belonging to Gibraltar and the ship had been on a routine patrol.

"We remain steadfast in our support for Gibraltar", the spokesperson said several times, when pressed by journalists.

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