UK should 'share sovereignty of Gibraltar with Spain', says Peter Hain

Former Europe minister says deal would give The Rock's inhabitants 'more freedom and security than ever'

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Indy Politics

A deal for joint sovereignty over Gibraltar between Spain and Britain should be revived as Brexit looms, former Europe minister Peter Hain has said.

The 2002 agreement the Labour politician helped negotiate eventually fell down and, in a referendum that year, some 99 per cent of Gibraltarians voted against the idea of shared sovereignty.

Immediately following the UK's vote to leave the EU in June last year Spain's acting foreign minister said he believed Brexit "opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time", though the UK Foreign Office said firmly it would not negotiate sovereignty unless Gibraltar agreed.

Writing in The Guardian, Mr Hain said: "The only concession Gibraltarians would have to make is a Spanish flag flying on the rock alongside a British one. Their cherished British citizenship, traditions, customs and way of life would be unchanged—except for the better because being under siege from Spain would disappear.

"Indeed, our deal gave Gibraltar much greater self-government and democratic autonomy, by abolishing the colonial trappings of its governor general acting on behalf of London. It also removed many obstacles that affected normal daily life, such as border controls, restrictions on telephone access, and the lack of easy diversions to Malaga of incoming plane flights to Gibraltar airport in bad weather.

"The deal meant massive jobs and prosperity benefits too, including turning a new merged harbour with Algeciras into the most important container and harbour port in southern Europe, ideally placed for both the Atlantic and Mediterranean."

Gibraltar was now in a "much worse place than 15 years ago" because of Brexit, Mr Hain added, saying a deal would give its inhabitants "more freedom and security than ever".

The Gibraltar question returned to the headlines in dramatic fashion last Sunday when ex-Conservative leader Michael Howard claimed the UK could go to war with Spain, as it had done with Argentina over the Falklands, if it used the Brexit negotiations to seek to assert sovereignty over the UK territory.