Brexit could threaten the sovereignty of Gibraltar, chief minister warns

Gibraltar’s chief minister says Leave campaigners ‘will have a lot to answer for’ if UK votes to quit the EU

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 01 June 2016 13:57 BST
Rock of Gibraltar
Rock of Gibraltar (Getty)

Gibraltar’s chief minister has warned that the British enclave's sovereignty might be at risk if the UK votes to leave the European Union next month.

Fabian Picardo said the territory would come under pressure from Spain to consider joint sovereignty in order to continue to have access the single market.

Mr Picardo told Sky News: “The current Spanish foreign minister has been explicit that [Brexit] might mean closing the frontier ... and that if Gibraltar wanted to have access to the single market and the rights we enjoy today of free movement, we would have to once again consider joint sovereignty with Spain, which no one in Gibraltar is prepared to consider.”

In 2013, a major dispute over fishing rights saw the Spanish border police impose aggressive controls on movement in and out of Gibraltar, resulting in six-hour queues to enter and exit the territory through the single border crossing.

If Britain left the EU, it could pose serious problems for Gibraltar’s economy, which has boomed in recent years with high growth in its financial services sector and gambling industry.

Mr Picardo said the Leave campaign “will have a lot to answer for” in the event of Brexit.

Gibraltar, which sits at the tip of Spain’s Iberian peninsula, has an adult population of 23,000, representing just 0.05 of the UK’s electorate, so while Gibraltarians will get to vote in the referendum, they are unlikely to have a significant impact on the outcome.

A recent poll carried out by the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper indicated more than 80 per cent of Gibraltar's people planned to vote and 88 per cent wanted to remain in the EU.

Despite its location, Gibraltar has remained a British territory since the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Gibraltarians voted against a return to Spanish sovereignty for the territory at two referendums, one in 1967 and another in 2002.

However Spain maintains it has a claim to the enclave.

In the Sky News interview, Mr Picardo referred to remarks that had actually been made by Snr Margallo. This story had previously wrongly attributed these remarks to Mr Picardo himself, but was amended on 28 May.

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