Spanish position on Gibraltar strikes fear into expat hearts

Published:  4 Feb at 6 PM
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Britons living on Gibraltar are again at risk from Spain’s attempts to take back the Rock.

Gibraltar’s 300-year long position as first a ‘crown colony’ and later as a British Overseas Territory since 2002 has been repeatedly challenged over the years by its Spanish neighbour, which has seen Brexit as an excuse to grab back the port and financial hub. Unsurprisingly, Gibraltarians, the majority of whom are British citizens, would prefer Spain to keep its distance.

Last Friday, an EU draft law referred simply to the Rock as a ‘colony’, immediately reigniting a controversy Brits resident on Gibraltar had hoped was ended, and fuelling suspicions that the EU favours Spain on the issue. According to diplomats, the British ambassador to the EU has objected strongly to the legal text’s wording, as it would seem to imply that the 33,000 Gibraltarians are to be seen separately from UK citizens. The EU draft law also spelled out Spain’s sovereignty claim as presented to the United Nations, with its wording already causing alarm amongst residents of the Rock as it states ‘there is a controversy between Spain and the UK covering the sovereignty of Gibraltar’.

In reply, a spokesperson for Theresa May told reporters Gibraltar is not in any way a colony, stressing the EU had been ‘inappropriate' in its description’ and adding the Rock is ‘a full part of the UK family’. According to lawmakers, the Spanish claim of sovereignty over Gibraltar is being based on the UN’s decolonisation rules, especially one which limits the say of those living in a colony. Having voted overwhelmingly against leaving the EU in the Brexit referendum, Gibraltarians are strongly in favour of the Rock’s staying British. Spain has already been given a right of veto on the legality of the application of post-Brexit arrangements for Gibraltar, and has made it clear a bid for joint sovereignty is on the table. As a result, and as Brexit draws dangerously close, both expats and long-term residents on the Rock are now in a similar state of uncertainty as are Britons across the EU.
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