UK will 'stand up for Gibraltar' in Brexit row with Spain, says Boris Johnson

Gibraltar's Chief Minister calls Spain's lobbying over the territory's future 'unacceptable'

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Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said the UK will stand up for Gibraltar, in the wake of what the territory called "unacceptable" lobbying from Spain over Gibraltar’s future as part of the Brexit negotiations.

On Friday, documents published by the European Council showed that decisions affecting Gibraltar would be referred to the Spanish government. The small territory in southern Spain voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the UK in a referendum in 2002. In last year’s EU referendum, 97 per cent of its citizens voted Remain.

Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo said Spain’s lobbying for its interests over Gibraltar was "unacceptable.”

Boris Johnson revealed he had held talks with Mr Picardo to make clear the UK would continue to support its wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Mr Johnson said: "As ever, the UK remains implacable and rock-like in our support for Gibraltar."

Clare Moody, Labour MEP for Gibraltar and South West England, told BBC Radio Four's Today programme it was the Government's job to "represent the people of Gibraltar".

She said: "I was amazed that they failed to do that in the letter they sent on Wednesday.

"It worries me that we are about to enter into the most detailed negotiations that we have known for decades.

"If the Government has overlooked the interests of Gibraltar, which is a crucial part of the kind of constitutional arrangements of our membership of the European Union, then what else are they going to overlook as well?"

Christian Hernandez, president of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce, said the British Government needed to "stand firm in the face of Spanish bullying".

"We don't want to be independent from the UK. We've made it very clear in the last 100 years, in the last 20 years, in the last 15 years, we want a constitutional relationship with the UK, where we continue to be part of the UK and independence is not something we aspire to," he added.

Spain has long contested Britain's 300-year rule of Gibraltar.

In its draft Brexit negotiating guidelines, the European Council identified future arrangements for Gibraltar as one of its 26 core principles.

It wrote: "After the UK leaves the union, no agreement between the EU and the UK may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without agreement between Spain and the UK."

But all 27 remaining EU countries are able to veto the UK’s deal, so it is not clear what this means in practical terms.

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