Picardo: Nothing will cleave Gibraltar from the UK
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Gibraltar’s sovereignty has been heavily debated but former Spanish foreign minister and MEP, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo claimed it is not Boris Johnson’s fault that the Rock has not rejoined Spain. According to Mr Margallo, who has penned the book ‘Gibraltar. The second surrender’, the incentives for the Spanish government to reclaim the territory have now gone. At the heart of the issue are the comments made by fellow former foreign minister and permanent representative to the EU, Alfonso Dastis who previously claimed Spain would not use Brexit to raise the question over Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
The UK Government has held firm over Gibraltar’s place as an overseas British territory but Mr Margallo claimed it is not what Britain wants but rather what Spain desires over the Rock’s future.
In an interview with Spanish publication Larazon, the MEP said: “The problem occurs when Fernando, who was Secretary of State of the European Union, was replaced by Alfonso Dastis who, after an interview with Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, said that sovereignty is not part of the negotiation portfolio of Spain, that is, Spain is not going to take advantage of Brexit to raise the question of sovereignty.
“I ask for an explanation and they tell me that the UK does not want co-sovereignty.
“And I answer that the problem is not what Boris Johnson wants, but what Spain wants.
“The second argument is that a conflict was going to be created.
“Indeed: conflicts are avoided very easily, as one general said: “Peace is always possible, just surrender.
“That is why I speak of two surrenders. The first was in 1704.
“The second is this one.”
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In terms of a comparison to Monaco, the MEP also insisted many Spaniards would not relocate to the Rock even if it was handed back to Spain.
The sovereignty of the island has been debated by the Spanish government with many officials claiming Brexit had now changed the parameters of the Rock’s relationship with the UK.
The MEP added: “Until now no one had given up talking about sovereignty. The claim is rhetorically maintained, but all the incentives that existed to recover it are gone.
“If you are going to turn Gibraltar into Monaco, why would anyone want to be Spanish if they can live on the Costa del Sol, have Spanish infrastructures, Spanish healthcare and not pay taxes.”
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Following Brexit, the UK, Gibraltar and Spain agreed a deal which removes the physical barrier which encircles the Rock.
Due to its position in the block, Gibraltar will also follow a large number of the EU’s single market rules and regulations in order not to hinder trade.
Although remaining a British overseas territory, Gibraltar also joined the EU’s Schengen free-movement zone to allow workers to continue to travel without difficulty.
Following the announcement post-Brexit, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed the deal provides the framework for future relations between Spain and the UK.
Mr Raab added: “All sides are committed to mitigating the effects of the end of the Brexit Transition Period on Gibraltar, and in particular ensure border fluidity, which is clearly in the best interests of the people living on both sides.
“We remain steadfast in our support for Gibraltar, and its sovereignty is safeguarded.”
In a further development, a Royal Navy warship has arrived in the Rock’s waters as part of the defence review into the UK’s presence overseas.
The HMS Trent will be stationed in Gibraltar later this year where it will spearhead NATO operations while working with North African partners.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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