In the wake of Brexit vote, Spanish government sets its eyes on reclaiming Gibraltar

But the territory's Chief Minister is asking for citizens to react with calm

Gibraltar, Spain, Great Britain, UK, United Kingdom, Brexit, EU referendum,

One of Gibraltar's famous Barbary macaque plays with the territory's flag [Andrew Milligan / PA Archive/Press Association Images]

Despite 98% of voters in the tiny British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar voting to remain within the European Union, its 30,000 citizens are now facing renewed pressure from Spain for joint sovereignty. Sharing a land border on the southern tip of Spain, the Spanish government’s calls come after the territory’s Chief Minister recently said that Gibraltar would never leave the United Kingdom.

Speaking on Spanish radio, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia Margallo loosely defined the Spanish cabinet’s proposal, saying: “Our formula... is British-Spanish co-sovereignty for a determined period of time, which after that time has elapsed, will head towards the restitution of Gibraltar to Spanish sovereignty.”

The 6.8 km2 outpost has long been the scene of political stalemate between London and Madrid. The Spanish government has maintained a desire to see the territory returned to it since it was taken over by British forces in 1713. But two separate referenda held in Gibraltar have shown an overwhelming support to remain within in the UK.

“It is now a bilateral issue that will be negotiated exclusively between the United Kingdom and Spain,” Margallo said, adding that secession to Spain was the only way Gibraltarians could keep access to the EU’s single market.

Responding to the result, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who had called an emergency meeting of the Rock’s cabinet this morning, asked his community to react with calm.

Despite the cultural and political will of Gibraltar to remain within the UK, the biggest question it faces concerns its economy, which relies heavily on the movement of thousands of workers across the Spanish border on a daily basis.

Juan Jose Uceda of the Assocation of Spanish Workers in Gibraltar told The Local that the workers he represents fear “the work situation for thousands of Spaniards and foreigners working in Gibraltar will become more difficult.”

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