The 300-year old dispute between Spain and the U.K. over the peninsula of Gibraltar is casting a shadow over Brexit talks even before officials have begun discussing how the U.K. is set to leave the EU.
Former conservative leader Michael Howard said during the weekend that Prime Minister Theresa May would be prepared to go to war to protect Gibraltar as Margaret Thatcher once did for the Falklands. The comments follow the publication of the EU’s draft guidelines for Brexit negotiations, which said that any new agreement with the U.K. that applies to Gibraltar will need to be approved by Spain.
“Nobody wants to talk about going to war,” Fabian Picardo, chief minister of Gibraltar, told CNBC on Monday.
He added, however, that “the way that Spain has behaved is really quite abominable.”
The sovereignty of Gibraltar has been a contentious issue between the U.K. and Spain for centuries. The territory is self-governed in all matters excluding foreign policy and defense, which are decided in the U.K. This means, for instance, that Gibraltar conducts border checks because the U.K. is not part of the EU’s passport-free area.
The paragraph in the EU’s guidelines has offended Gibraltarians, who in 2002, said no to the idea of shared sovereignty between the U.K. and Spain by 99 percent in a referendum.
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