Spain tells UK to calm down over Gibraltar-Brexit war threats

'The Spanish government is a little surprised by the tone of comments coming out of Britain, a country known for its composure'

Andrew Griffin
Monday 03 April 2017 10:50 BST
Spain tells Britain to calm down over Gibraltar dispute

Britain needs to calm down over Gibraltar, Spain's foreign minister has said.

Alfonso Dastis said that he was surprised that the UK government was so excited about the dispute over the rock, in response to suggestions that the two countries could go to war.

"The Spanish government is a little surprised by the tone of comments coming out of Britain, a country known for its composure," he said during a conference in Madrid. He said comparing the dispute to the Falklands is "out of context".

His comments came after a former government minister suggested that Theresa May could be ready to go to war over the rock, if it is threatened as part of the Brexit negotiations. Former Conservative leader Michael Howard compared the territory dispute to the Falkland Islands, and said that Britain would be prepared to take similarly aggressive measures.

Current ministers haven't been so extreme, but have suggested that the sovereignty of Gibraltar won't be threatened during the negotiations. Boris Johnson said Gibraltar's sovereignty "is not going to change and cannot conceivably change without the express support and consent of the people of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom."

Alfonso Dastis has said that Madrid must have a veto over any agreements made over Gibraltar, which sits on Spain's southern tip and is an important strategic enclave. The EU's plans for the Brexit negotiations let the two countries argue about the territory, which Spain has wanted back since it ceded it to the British more than 300 years ago.

Mr Dastis's comments were similar to those made by Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders, who called for calm and argued that the Brexit divorce is difficult enough already.

"Let's be cool and carry on, and not use too harsh language, I would say. Let's just negotiate. I think that's the most important," he said.

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