Gibraltar's Chief Minister warns a Brexit could rock the overseas territory

In response to joint-sovereignty with Spain, Fabian Picardo said: "Gibraltar will always be British"

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The Rock of Gibraltar, one of the chief tourist sites in the region [Flickr/Eva Stachova]

Ahead of next month’s generation-defining referendum across the Irish Sea, where Britons (all over the continent) will cast their vote on whether or not to remain in the European Union, many commentators have argued about the effect a Brexit will have on the UK’s only land border with Europe, the line that marks the six counties of Northern Ireland from the 26 others in the Republic. But now the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Britain’s Overseas Territory on the southern end of the Iberian peninsula, has raised his concerns about what leaving the EU would do for the 30,000 living around the famous rock, who would have to leave the EU too.

Fabian Picardo, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar since 2011, warned his fellow Britons of the political ramifications an exit from the EU would have for the everyday lives of Gibraltarians, but also ruled out any potential of joint sovereignty with Spain, from which the 6.7kmsq region was captured in 1704.

Spain has been more vocal in re-asserting its claim to Gibraltar in recent times, with the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy referring to the British territory as “the last colony in Europe” and an “anachronism.”

But Picardo has claimed concerns that if Gibraltar wants to maintain its access to the single European market – which has resulted in the territory’s financial and gambling industries booming in the last decade – Spain may demand Gibraltar and the UK accept joint sovereignty, despite two separate referenda on the matter resulting in landslide declarations of fidelity to Britain.

“The position in Gibraltar has not changed, will not change,” Picardo told The Independent, “Gibraltar will always be British.”

In response to claims made by Spain’s Foreign Minister José García-Margallo that joint sovereignty would be a pre-requisite for having access to the single market in the future, Picardo did not mince his words: “Well, you know what, he can stick that into his autobiography, or anywhere else where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s not going to prosper with the people of Gibraltar and that’s on the record.

“Spain needs to wake up and smell the coffee. The Spanish government needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Gibraltar will never be Spanish.”

The 1.2km border, which has only one crossing point, was officially closed by Spain from 1969 to 1985, meaning the only access in and out of the territory was by air or sea. A major issue over a vote to leave the EU concerns the freedom of movement of the 10,000 workers who cross the border from Spain into Gibraltar every day. Political disputes over the right to fish in Gibraltarian waters in 2013 saw Spanish border police exert strict and lengthy controls over the crossing, with waiting times of as much as six hours.

“In past years, we’ve been able to avail of our rights under the Treaty of Rome. We lose the right to use that legal lever against Spain if we leave the European Union. That is what’s under threat,” Picardo said.

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