After 300 years, Spain still wants Gibraltar back

Its 30,000-plus Britons face an uncertain future...

After 300 years, Spain still wants Gibraltar back

Ben Birchall PA Archive/PA Images

Amid all of the Brexit complications and permutations - it's been easy to forget about Gibraltar and its 30,000 Britons hanging on to the southern tip of Spain.

2002's referendum which would have given Spain and Britain shared control of the region was rejected by almost 99% of the population - meaning it remains 100% British.

A wild Barbary macaque at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar

Every day half of the workers in Gibraltar commute from Spain.

As London prepares for a 'hard Brexit' - officials on the end of the Iberian Peninsula are scrambling to establish its own agreement with the EU.

"We’ll be looking for a relationship with the EU that may differ from the UK’s, perhaps an associate-style status. There are models: Andorra, Greenland, Liechtenstein. As part of the UK’s exit, we’d like an agreement to continue to give us single market access, and freedom of movement," Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo said.

"Our reality is different: we are part of the physical continent of Europe," he added.

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo openly stated that he believes that Brexit offers an opportunity for Spain to finally retake control of peninsula, before leaving the office in late 2016.

"It’s a unique historical opportunity in more than three hundred years to get Gibraltar back," he said, again proposing shared control and leaving Gibraltar to continue to manage its own affairs.

The new Spanish has opened the door for a spacial agreement with Gibraltar - while still floating the idea of co-sovereignty.


Supporters who voted 'No' to shared control of Gibraltar between Britain and Spain

Gibraltar's corporation tax is only 10% - its bustling local economy is home to some 500 financial firms. Its growing gaming industry also employs more than 3,500 workers according to The Guardian.

During the Franco dictatorship the border between Gibraltar and the rest of Spain was closed - and it was only fully reopened in 1985. A submission from the Gibraltar Government to the House of Lords said that sealing the border again after Brexit would put 40% of its jobs at risk.

"A frontier which lacked the necessary fluidity for people to be able to access their places of work would therefore put directly at risk the jobs of 40% of the entire Gibraltar workforce," it stated.

May Day

Some local politicians have taken Ms May's comments yesterday about the importance of maintaining a fluid border in between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as a sign of how it will approach negotiations on the future of the region.

Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia will meet Theresa May today to seek clarification regarding the future of Gibraltar as Brexit unfolds.

More than 90% of voters in Gibraltar wanted the UK to remain in the EU in May's referendum.