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No 10 hits out at EU’s ‘unacceptable’ claim Gibraltar is a British colony

A European Union document highlighted the ‘controversy’ between Spain and the UK over The Rock’s sovereignty.

The row was triggered by a footnote on the draft European Council document (Ben Birchall/PA)
The row was triggered by a footnote on the draft European Council document (Ben Birchall/PA)

Downing Street has clashed with Brussels over its description of Gibraltar as a “colony”.

A European Council document setting out plans for visa-free travel for Britons after Brexit notes the “controversy between Spain and the UK” over the sovereignty of the territory.

But  the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is completely unacceptable to describe Gibraltar in this way.

“Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family. This will not change due to our exit from the EU.”

The 32,000 people of Gibraltar are used to the constant attempts by successive Spanish governments to bully us in every possible way Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo accused Madrid of trying to “bully” the British Overseas Territory by demanding the contentious description in the draft document.

The Gibraltarian government said “the use of such language, were it to materialise in the final documents, does not assist the creation of a climate of understanding and trust between Gibraltar and Spain as we prepare to leave the EU”.

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The controversial footnote on Gibraltar

The row was triggered by a footnote on the draft European Council document which states: “Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown.

“There is a controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached in light of the relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly of the United Nations.”

Mr Picardo said: “No one will be surprised to hear the Spanish government making provocative statements in respect of Gibraltar.

“The 32,000 people of Gibraltar are used to the constant attempts by successive Spanish governments to bully us in every possible way.

“This is no different to the sort of abuse we have had from former Spanish administrations.”

A row with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez over Gibraltar almost derailed efforts to agree the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between Theresa May and the EU in November.

The diplomatic spat which threatened to derail the Brexit process was resolved after a clarification about the legal position and emergency talks involving Mr Sanchez, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

PA

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