Gibraltar May be the First Brexit Casualty

World

It’s been 300 years, and people are still sore over the rock of Gibraltar.

For those unfamiliar, Gibraltar is located on the southern tip of Spain, across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco. Since 1713, when Spain ceded it to the British Empire, Gibraltar has been a protectorate of the United Kingdom. It is now home to 30,000 people, a British military base, and the eponymous rock.

Since its annexation, Gibraltar has been a point of tension between Spain and the United Kingdom, the Spanish arguing that British ownership of the settlement is a violation of their sovereignty. The British, for their part, argue that they have always held Gibraltar and will continue to do so.

Brexit, and its imminent implementation, has brought this conflict bubbling back up to the surface.

Last Friday the European Union offered Spain the right to veto any decisions regarding Gibraltar after a successful British withdrawal from the EU. In effect, this would mean that before any new agreements are established between Europe and the UK regarding Gibraltar, they must be cleared by Spain first.

A diplomat who asked to remain anonymous told Reuters, "This seems intended to give Spain something so they don't try to hold the whole withdrawal treaty hostage over it."

That tactic on the part of Brussels may prove prudent. Inigo Mendez de Vigo, the Spanish minister of education, said Friday, “It is what we wanted and what we have said from the beginning... The recognition by the European Union of the legal and political situation that Spain has defended fully satisfies us.”

While the concession may seem small, the leadership in London and Gibraltar would beg to differ.

Fabian Picardo, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, released the following statement: “This is a disgraceful attempt by Spain to manipulate the European Council for its own, narrow, political interests [...] a clear manifestation of the predictably predatory attitude that we anticipated Spain would seek to abusively impose on its partners.”

He was supported by British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who tweeted on Friday, “As ever, the UK remains implacable & rock-like in our support for Gibraltar.”

Rock-like though British support may be, there is likely little they can do to stop Spain from getting whatever terms they dictate.

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