LONDON (Reuters) - Gibraltar will not be a victim of Brexit and has had guarantees from the British government it will not do a trade deal with the European Union which doesn’t include the territory, its chief minister said on Sunday.
The future of Gibraltar, a rocky enclave on the southern tip of Spain captured by Britain in 1704, and its 30,000 inhabitants is set to be a major point of contention in Brexit negotiations.
The EU annoyed Britain and Gibraltar in April by offering Spain a right of veto over the territory’s post-Brexit relationship with the bloc.
Gibraltar, which Spain wants back, voted strongly in favour of remaining in the EU at last year’s referendum but is committed to staying part of Britain.
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told Sky News he had had “cast iron assurances” from Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis that the government would not do a trade deal with the EU if it did not include Gibraltar.
“I’m the backbone of this negotiation for Gibraltar and the backbone is made of limestone rock, it’s not going to be easy to buckle on that. We can have the War of the Summer, the War of the Autumn or the War of the Winter, if you like, on that, Gibraltar is not going to change its position,” he said.
“It’s our obligation now to energetically and enthusiastically pursue the result of the referendum and deliver a successful Brexit. We’re not going to get in the way of Brexit but we’re not going to be the victims of Brexit.”
During a state visit to Britain this week, Spain’s King Felipe said he was confident an acceptable arrangement could be worked out with Britain over the future of Gibraltar, but Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said the topic had not come up during their bilateral meeting.
“There is not going to be any new arrangements in relation to the sovereignty of Gibraltar, that is going to remain 100 percent British,” Picardo said.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, editing by David Evans