Gibraltar was touched on fleetingly during the meeting between Prime Minister Theresa May and her caretaker Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, in Madrid. A Spanish wire report quoted anonymous sources in the Spanish Government saying that Rajoy had set out the Spanish position during a wider discussion on Brexit.
A Downing Street spokesman confirmed that the issue had been raised. “It was touched on but it wasn’t a substantive part of the discussion,” the spokesman said.
The Downing Street spokesman would not be drawn on Mrs May’s response to the Spanish Prime Minister but she will certainly have underscored the UK’s double-lock sovereignty commitment to Gibraltar.
“The Prime Minister made clear that as we go through the process of departure we will do so as one United Kingdom,” the Downing Street spokesman said.
“There will be internal consultation with the devolved administrations and other stakeholders about how we represent everyone’s interests, but we will negotiate and leave as the UK.”
“Both sides agreed that the UK is leaving the EU not Europe and we remain committed to positive bilateral relations, and with the European Union as a whole.”
The visit was being closely monitored by officials in Gibraltar, who were being kept informed by the British Government. “Gibraltar has no reason to be concerned about the approach that Mrs May will have taken,” a spokesman for No 6 Convent Place said.
Just hours before the meeting, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had set out the UK’s commitment to Gibraltar in colourful language during evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons in London. He said Britain will maintain “a completely implacable, marmoreal and rocklike resistance” to Spanish claims for any change in the sovereignty of Gibraltar as a result of Brexit.
The Spanish Government itself did not seek to highlight the issue of Gibraltar, which was not even mentioned in the official communiqué issued by Rajoy’s office after the meeting. The statement from La Moncloa instead focused on broader issues affecting both countries and highlighted the close relationship between the UK and Spain.
“He reassured her that Spain aspires to maintain a close and friendly future relationship with the United Kingdom, both at a bilateral level and within the framework of the [European] Union,” La Moncloa said in a statement.
“Mariano Rajoy also told the British Prime Minister that Spain would support the United Kingdom’s integrity and would not encourage any type of secessionism related to the withdrawal from the EU,” the statement added, in a clear reference to Scotland’s consultation on the possibility of a second independence referendum, and Madrid’s concerns about Catalonia.
The Downing Street spokesman said Mrs May and Rajoy held “a productive working lunch” during the visit to Madrid, her first since becoming Prime Minister.