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Gibraltar 'will not be bargained away' during Brexit talks, insists Johnson

Boris Johnson has insisted that Gibraltar "will not be bargained away" during the Brexit negotiations after the Government came under pressure to safeguard the future of the Rock.

The Foreign Secretary's intervention came after a European Union proposal to give Madrid a veto over decisions on the territory's future after the UK has left the bloc.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer warned that the people of Gibraltar must not become a "bargaining chip" in talks, while the territory's chief minister Fabian Picardo said the EU's proposal was a "slap in the face".

The negotiation guidelines set out by European Council president Donald Tusk would require Spanish agreement for the territory to be included in future agreements between the EU and UK on issues such as trade.

Mr Johnson told The Sunday Telegraph: "Gibraltar is not for sale. Gibraltar cannot be traded. Gibraltar will not be bargained away."

Prime Minister Theresa May has been criticised for failing to mention Gibraltar in her letter triggering Article 50, starting the Brexit process, with claims the omission opened the door for Spain to further its claims over the disputed territory.

But Mr Johnson stressed: "The policy of the Government remains fixed and firm. The sovereignty of Gibraltar cannot be changed without the express consent of the UK and the people of Gibraltar."

He praised Gibraltar's "vibrant business centre" and said its harbour remains a "key Nato asset" because it can take nuclear submarines.

"The UK Government can be counted on to stick up for those interests - for instance in insurance and maritime services - which create jobs not just in Gibraltar but in the wider region of southern Spain.

"The status of Gibraltar has been unchanged since 1713. It made no difference when the UK joined the Common Market in 1973 and when Spain was not yet a member. It should make no difference today.

"So let us go into these discussions with goodwill and optimism and get a deal that is good for the UK, good for Spain, and good for the people of Gibraltar."

Spain has a long-standing territorial claim on Gibraltar, which has been held by the UK since 1713 and has the status of a British overseas territory.

Any suggestion Madrid might have a say over the future of the self-governing territory, which is home to important UK military bases, causes anxiety among its 30,000 inhabitants.

Gibraltar is addressed in a single paragraph of Mr Tusk's nine-page document, which says: "After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom."

Mr Picardo told The Sunday Telegraph: "It is a slap in the face for the people of Gibraltar who are the ones who most vehemently supported remaining in the European Union."

He added: "It is unfair, it demonstrates that Spain will use any opportunity to try and advance its claim to Gibraltar."

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