Spain has little prospect of gaining joint sovereignty over Gibraltar, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said this weekend as he acknowledged that Gibraltarians “have a right” to reject the offer. In an interview with the leading Spanish newspaper El País, the foreign minister insisted any post-Brexit relationship between Gibraltar and the EU must first be agreed by the UK and Spain.
But the Spanish minister also suggested he would take a more flexible approach on Gibraltar than his predecessor, José Manuel Garcia-Margallo, when the EU agrees the terms for Brexit negotiations with the UK.
Dastis was asked two questions on Gibraltar during a wide-ranging interview on Spanish foreign policy, his first with the print media since taking office last November. He said the co-sovereignty proposal presented by Garcia-Margallo was still on the table. But he added: “I think we need to be realistic.”
“If the UK does not want to negotiate, it will be hard to move forward with this, and one of the elements that London is considering before deciding whether to negotiate is the opinion of Gibraltarians,” Dastis told El Pais.
“We deeply believe that this would be a beneficial choice for them [but] if Gibraltarians remain sceptical and do not wish to explore that avenue, I would say that’s their business.They have a right to get left out of the EU, if that’s what they want.”
“But if Gibraltar wants a relationship with the EU, it will have to go through us. And that will require a bilateral agreement between Spain and the UK.”
The Spanish minister’s comments were welcomed by the Gibraltar Government, which has so far refrained from commenting publicly on Sr Dastis’ statements on Gibraltar.
“It is to be welcomed that there is recognition that Joint Sovereignty is a matter that will not be prospering or progressing at all,” a spokesman for No. 6 Convent Place told the Chronicle.
“Even in the context of Brexit we continue to believe that there are many areas for potential cooperation which do not affect sovereignty on which we can no doubt work together and which can progress and that can deliver prosperity for the benefit of people on both sides of the frontier.”