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Spain to pitch ‘fantasy’ joint sovereignty in Brexit dossier

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Spain will brief other EU members on its joint sovereignty proposal for Gibraltar within “two or three days”, the country’s acting Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, said yesterday in his first public statements since the summer break.

Speaking in Potsdam ahead of a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Sr García-Margallo said Spain would deliver a dossier to EU partners setting out its proposals ahead of Brexit talks with the UK.

He also said Spain would insist Gibraltar be excluded from the framework of any discussion with the UK about its future relationship with the EU, adding that once outside the bloc, Gibraltar was “a bilateral matter” between Spain and Britain.

His comments drew an immediate response from No 6 Convent Place, which said the Spanish minister had an “unhealthy personal obsession” with Gibraltar and the joint sovereignty “fantasy”.

The Gibraltar Government said it was in everyone’s interests that Brexit discussions took place “in a civilised and friendly spirit” and not with the “hostile and confrontational attitude” displayed by Sr García-Margallo.

“It's time that we saw a more mature approach from the Spanish Foreign Ministry on the issues Brexit raises for Spain, the United Kingdom and Gibraltar,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

“This fanciful and futile repetition of the nonsense of joint sovereignty is a waste of Europe's time and energy, and a waste of time for the people of the Campo who are once again facing the prospect of losing their jobs in Gibraltar by these veiled threats from a man who has failed to advance Spain's claim to Gibraltar one millimetre in his much criticised tenure as Foreign Minister.”

“History will be a stern judge of Sr Margallo's record as the undiplomatic head of Spanish diplomacy.”

The Spanish proposal – which has not been formally made to Britain or Gibraltar - is to pursue the joint sovereignty proposals that were first tabled in 2002. Those proposals were robustly rejected by Gibraltarians in a referendum at the time.

In making his statements yesterday, Sr García-Margallo ignored the fact that the Gibraltar Government and Opposition have both made clear that Gibraltar’s sovereignty is not up for discussion in the Brexit debate.

He also ignored the UK’s repeated double-lock assurance that it will not even discuss the Rock’s British sovereignty against the wishes of the Gibraltarians, let alone take any step to change it.

Yesterday No 6 Convent Place said the people of Gibraltar would not be “blackmailed” by Sr García-Margallo into accepting something they already been rejected.

Sr García-Margallo’s comments one the sidelines of the OSCE meeting were nothing new and repeated a position he had already floated several times in the immediate wake of the Brexit vote last June 23.

He was quoted by Spanish news agency EFE as saying that joint sovereignty would remove “a pimple that impacts on relations across the EU” and allow Gibraltar to retain access to the single market.

“This would resolve the historical dispute, protect the interests of the population of Gibraltar and avoid discussions within the EU that could turn very bitter,” he said.

The Gibraltar Government interpreted that last comment as a threat over prospects for Brexit discussions if Spain did not get its way on joint sovereignty.

“It is quite incredible that instead of making a positive contribution to the ‘Brexit’ debate, Sr Margallo should threaten that there will be unpleasant internal discussions within the EU, presumably in the event that his idea of joint-sovereignty is not taken forward,” No 6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, he does not seem to appreciate that the consequences of ‘Brexit’ could potentially be very serious for Spain itself in terms of investment, trade and tourism.”

“Indeed, many ordinary Spaniards have more serious things to worry about than Gibraltar and do not share the obsession of their Foreign Minister.”

It added: “The reality is that Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar is as far away today as it has ever been.”

Yesterday Sr García-Margallo also signalled that Spain would change its position in its annual statement to the UN’s Fourth Committee, which for the first time in many years will not be a consensus position agreed with the UK.