Gib’s post-Brexit relationship with EU ‘must have Spanish backing’, Rajoy says
Any effort to agree a new relationship between Gibraltar and the EU must take into account Spain’s opinion and have its backing, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said at the weekend.
Sr Rajoy made the comment in a Sunday interview with the left-leaning newspaper El Pais, the latest in a string of comments by senior Spanish ministers on Gibraltar and Brexit.
“Gibraltar leaves the European Union when the UK leaves, not because it is part of the UK, but because the UK is responsible for its foreign affairs,” Sr Rajoy said.
“And as such, it is leaving.”
“From then on, all relations between the EU and the UK or those that affect Gibraltar must take into account Spain’s opinion and have its favourable vote.”
Sr Rajoy said Brexit was bad not just for the UK but for the rest of Europe too, adding that the goal must now be to ensure “the best possible relationship” between Britain and the EU both during the withdrawal process and in future.
“But it must be left very clear that you cannot be better off outside Europe than inside Europe,” he said.
A day earlier, Spain’s Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis, told the right wing newspaper ABC that Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU “need not necessarily” require joint sovereignty.
“We have made a very generous co-sovereignty offer, but two can’t dance if one doesn’t want to,” he said.
“And if the UK doesn’t want to negotiate and the population of Gibraltar prefers make its own way outside the union, then that’s up to them.”
“But if they want, in some way, to maintain a relationship with the EU, Spain will make good on its interests.”
Sr Dastis said that outside the EU, Gibraltar’s relationship with Spain would be that of a third country.
But he suggested this would not have a major impact on the border, which would remain open.
“The fence would remain as an external frontier, as it is now, because as a matter of fact they are not part of the Customs union,” he told ABC.
“But because of the relationship with the Campo de Gibraltar, we don’t have any intention to take any type of drastic measures, such as closing the fence.”
His comments were in stark contrast with the analysis of a former Foreign Minister, Marcelino Oreja, in an interview published a day later by La Razón.
Sr Oreja, who was Spain’s Foreign Minister from 1976 to 1980, was asked what would happen to Gibraltar after Brexit.
“In Gibraltar they have had a very comfortable situation up to now,” he said.
“The [border] fence was closed, it was opened, and now we will have to close it again.”