Brussels: Tensions between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar residents’ travel rights

Britain issued a formal complaint to the E.U. authorities on Friday upon receiving a draft document which recognised Gibraltar as British colony. The draft document’s language underscores the unity of E.U. 27-members towards Spanish claims on the Gibraltar dispute against Britain, at a time when Brexit deliberations have reached an impasse.

The 27 E.U. member-states accepted visa-free travel schemes for British nationals within Europe’s premises upon Brexit, even if the latter takes place in a disorderly manner. Downing Street in exchange agreed to provide temporary stay of E.U. visitors in British soil for a 90-day grace period. Based on this agreement, the British Ambassador to the E.U., Sir Timothy Barrow, objected on Friday’s draft document, claiming that introduction of the word colony into official E.U. correspondence violates the spirit of international law. More specifically, the British Ambassador sustained that recognition of Gibraltar as a colony infers that the 33.000 residents of the state do not enjoy the travel rights currently retained by British citizens.  Further, the Ambassador also dismissed Spanish sovereignty claims over “the Rock” territory, namely Gibraltar. The British government’s spokesman also made similar remarks on the issue.

Gibraltar is the westernmost entry/exit port of the Mediterranean Sea. Under the terms of the 1713 Utrecht Treaty, Gibraltar was given to Britain from Spain, after London emerged victorious from the renowned Spanish War of Succession. Gibraltar remained a crown colony until early 2002 when Britain reclassified the port as a British overseas territory. Interestingly, the British representatives did not object to European Court of Justice 2006 and 2017 decisions which acknowledged Gibraltar as a British colony. The British reacted a bit more frantically this time as a result of Spanish demands to dispute British sovereignty claims on the port.

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