November 15, 2018 / 12:44 PM / a month ago

Spain welcomes Gibraltar protocol in Brexit deal, hopes it gets British backing

Spain's State Secretary for the European Union Luis Marco Aguiriano speaks to the media in Madrid, Spain, November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Susana Vera

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain welcomes the inclusion of a protocol on Gibraltar in the draft Brexit agreement but has not given up its claims on the British overseas territory, a junior minister said on Thursday.

Junior EU affairs minister Luis Marco Aguiriano told reporters the deal was “very positive” for workers and residents on Gibraltar, a peninsula on Spain’s southern coast.

Madrid hoped it be backed by the British parliament, he added, speaking as British Prime Minister Theresa May battled to save the agreement in the face of opposition from politicians across the spectrum.

He also said there was no deal yet on Gibraltar’s airport.

The Spanish government has contingency plans in place if there was no final deal on Brexit, Aguiriano added.

Gibraltar is due to leave the European Union along with the United Kingdom in March though 96 percent of its population voted in the 2016 referendum to remain in the bloc. The territory is anxious to preserve free movement of people across its border with Spain.

A British territory since 1713, Gibraltar is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations. Spain has long claimed sovereignty over the territory.

Reporting by Jesus Aguado and Blanca Rodriguez; Writing by Ingrid Melander, Editing by Paul Day and Angus MacSwan

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