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UK rejects joint sovereignty of Gibraltar

Press AssociationPress Association 23/06/2016

The British government has rejected the idea of shared sovereignty of Gibraltar after Spain raised the prospect of joint control of the enclave following the UK's Brexit vote.

Foreign Office minister David Lidington said the UK "will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state", following the shock vote to quit the European Union.

His comments came after acting Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said in a radio interview that he hoped "co-sovereignty" of Gibraltar and "the Spanish flag on the Rock" were much closer to happening after the vote.

The British Overseas Territory, ceded by Spain more than 300 years ago, voted overwhelmingly to Remain, with 95.9% of voters backing the status quo.

Mr Lidington said he knows many Gibraltarians "will be frustrated their view was not reflected in the United Kingdom".

In a statement, he said: "I know many will be concerned about the future. I want to be absolutely clear. The United Kingdom will continue to stand beside Gibraltar.

"We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against your wishes. Furthermore, the UK will not enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content."

Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo, who shared a platform with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in May in support of the Remain campaign, is due to give a speech on Friday afternoon.

Earlier, he tweeted: "We have surpassed greater challenges. It is time for unity, for calm and for rational thinking. Together and united we will continue to prosper."

Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 in the Treaty of Utrecht. But over past decades Spain has made various noises about taking it back, including a 2013 dispute which saw border checks reintroduced - causing long delays - in a row over an artificial reef.

A referendum on joint sovereignty in 2002 saw 98.48 per cent of citizens of the territory back remaining British.

The Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce had also backed the Remain campaign, calling Brexit "a leap in the dark".

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