The chief minister of Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory on Spain’s coast, says that the European Union must not use the region as a “bargaining chip” in Brexit negotiations.
Fabian Picardo says Gibraltar citizens “want to stay British and that needs to be clear with every member state.”
Picardo said in a statement to the press:
“Let us be very clear and let the message be clear in Madrid, in Brussels and in every other capital of the European Union. Gibraltar is not a bargaining chip in these negotiations. Gibraltar belongs to the Gibraltarians and we want to stay British.”
Picardo went to visit Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday to discuss his concerns. May’s spokesperson said after the talks:
“The prime minister said we will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, nor will we ever enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.
“The prime minister said we remain absolutely dedicated to working with Gibraltar for the best possible outcome on Brexit and will continue to involve them fully in the process.”
Gibraltar belongs to the Gibraltarians and we want to stay British
Gibraltar is on the southern coast of Spain with a population of around 30,000. It has been a British territory for over three centuries and voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union, with 96% of voters backing Remain.
In 2002, 99% of citizens voted to reject the idea of the UK sharing sovereignty with Spain. People who live in Gibraltar are technically British citizens but they run their own affairs under a chief minister.
Its economy is driven by tourism, finance and a local shipyard. It is also a strategically important place for the British military as it stands only 12 miles from the north coast of Africa. The military has a port and an airstrip in Gibraltar, as well as a base.
Last month, it was established that the Spanish government will have the power to block any Brexit deal involving of Gibraltar.
In a major diplomatic victory for Madrid, the EU’s draft guidelines for Brexit talks with Britain state that any divorce deal that applies to Gibraltar will require the approval of both the UK and Spanish governments.
The guidelines, set out in a letter drafted by European Council President Donald Tusk, say:
“After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the UK may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the kingdom of Spain and the UK.”
On April 1, Picardo accused Spain of manipulating the European Council for its own political interests.
The issue with immigration
Britain is hurtling towards a “hard Brexit,” which will see the UK leaving the European Single Market in exchange for complete control over immigration. Negotiations can now officially start after Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 last month.
Britain will leave the European Union by the end of March 2019 and must agree with the EU what it will pay in the divorce and what the terms of its exit are going to be. Then, negotiations on Britain’s future relationship with the EU can start. The complex, difficult agreement will cover everything from immigration to trade.
Various polls in the run-up to the referendum showed that immigration was a key issue for those voting for a Brexit.
Immigration is going to be one of the hardest issues to resolve in negotiations, as Britain is seeking to completely throwaway the Freedom of Movement Act, which allows workers from within the EU move easily to any other member state.
4.5 million Britons live abroad but only 1.3 million of them live in Europe, according to United Nations data — primarily in Spain, Ireland, and France.
However, if Britain heavily restricts EU members coming to Britain, it is believed that the rights of Britons already living abroad could be threatened.
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