UK law makers will commit to barrier-free financial market access for Gibraltar once the UK leaves the European Union during a meeting Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo today.
The UK will promise the Rock will be treated the same as Britain after Brexit, it was reported by the BBC.
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However, in the EU’s recent negotiating guidelines it granted Spain a veto over the territory’s fate unless the UK and Spain come to an agreement.
Under the EU’s guidelines, if Britain refused to cooperate with Spain then Gibraltar could leave the EU without a deal and lose access to Britain’s financial markets.
A spokesman for the UK government said:
“The prime minister has said that as we negotiate these matters we will be negotiating to ensure that the relationships are there for Gibraltar as well.”
“We are not going to exclude Gibraltar from our negotiations for either the implementation period or the future agreement.”
Why this matters:
Gibraltar are seeking some formal reassurance of its status after Brexit.
Most of its financial trade is with the UK.
The territory’s insurance sector is important to Britain. The Gibraltar government claims one in five British drivers insure their cars with firms based on the outpost.
The territory is very concerned about Spain utilising its veto to force talks about the British outpost’s constitutional future.
Picardo was clear that the question of Gibraltarian sovereignty would not be reopened as result of Britain leaving the EU.
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“Sovereignty is something which is settled. It was settled in the Helsinki accords and in Utrecht that the sovereignty of Gibraltar belongs to the UK and the people of Gibraltar.”
“We don’t barter with sovereignty today as if we were in the 17th century, with kings passing around sovereignty of pieces of land. What we do is look at the interests of the people. What we do is talk to people and ask them what matters.”
“We are very linked to the UK, we see the world through British eyes and we don’t want to change that.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has faced domestic criticism for not putting sufficient emphasis on solving issues regarding Gibraltar during Brexit negotiations.
Her main critic has been Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Vince Cable who believes that the UK government must remove any possibility of Spain having a veto over Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
Cable told the BBC:
“If the government is going to take a tough line on Brexit in these negotiations, this is one of the things they should be tough about.”
“Currently they have been very, very weak and created an enormous sense of anxiety and insecurity”.
“It is an issue of fundamental principle. Gibraltar has been attached to the UK for two centuries.”
“We have seen off repeated demands by Spain to have control over the Rock. We should not allow Brexit to be used as a cloak for giving away what is a substantial British commitment.”
Gibraltar has been in British hands since 1713.
However, Spain does not acknowledge British sovereignty over the territory and has continually sought to take back the territory that is connected to the Spanish mainland.
There was a referendum in 1967 which saw 99.64% of Gibraltarian voters choose British sovereignty.
The territory voted overwhelming in favour of remaining in the EU during the 2016 referendum – 96% of its inhabitants voted remain.
Gibraltar’s inhabitants have since embraced the result of the referendum.
The outpost has been an area of tension throughout the Brexit negotiations.
The EU has been calling for a bilateral agreement between Spain and the UK to decide Gibraltar’s future since December.
Last week Spain demanded that it joint manages Gibraltar’s airport with the UK once Britain leaves the EU. Currently the airport is owned by the UK’s Ministry of Defence.