Spain’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis has demanded that Spain and the UK should jointly manage Gibraltar’s airport, once the UK leaves the European Union in 2019.
Dastis suggested that Madrid and the UK should “manage the airport together”, it was reported by the Financial Times newspaper.
The Gibraltar International Airport is owned by the UK’s Ministry of Defence, meaning the demand is likely to be met with resistance by London which considers the airfield a British asset on British territory.
Dastis told the FT that Spain “has a claim” to the land, that Madrid considers to be illegally occupied by Britain.
He also pressed for greater cooperation on tax and tobacco smuggling, and outlined hopes of finalising a transition deal with Britain by March.
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Sovereignty is something we aspire to, that we are not renouncing, but in these negotiations it is not the issue. We need some more co-operation with the Gibraltar or the UK tax authorities but the situation has already improved. The Gibraltarians seem willing to co-operate, we need to see that in practice.
The latest demands stop short of demanding full sovereignty for the British Overseas Territory, that lies on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
Why it matters:
In April 2017, European Council president Donald Tusk granted Spain a formal veto power over any deal that would affect the status of Gibraltar in the Brexit negotiations.
The veto could derail Brexit negotiations as Britain has mandated that Gibraltar must leave the EU on the same terms and timetable as the UK.
The latest demands could also spark consternation from within the ranks of the Tory party, among those who believe that Theresa May should stand up to Spain on the Gibraltar Brexit issue.
Spain has for years sought to take back the territory, connected to the Spanish mainland.
Gibraltar was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, a series of treaties that sought to concludeThe War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714).
Alongside Britain, Gibraltar will leave the European Union in March 2019, despite the fact 96% of its residents voted to remain in the union last June.
Politicians have suggested offering Gibraltar’s residents dual nationality as a possible solution to the turmoil, a possibility later vetoed by May.
Gibraltar’s status must now be added to the long list of things that May needs to negotiate following the invocation of Article 50.