Gibraltar will always be an issue between UK and Spain – matter is an open sore

Gibraltar: Morton discusses priorities in post-Brexit relations

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Dr Andrew Dowling, reader in contemporary Spanish politics at the University of Cardiff, notes the “historically complicated relationship” Britain and Spain share over the matter. He told “I think in any meeting between British and Spanish governments, it will be there. You’ve got a territorial conflict between the two countries around Gibraltar, so that can never be ignored.

“As far as Spaniards are concerned, the vast majority of Gibraltar is Spanish, and therefore Gibraltar should be Spanish, and should belong to Spain, and is part of Andalucia, and so on and so forth.

“And it’s held by Britain. That’s always going to be a stone in the shoe of relations.”

Gibraltar has belonged to Britain since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Dr Dowling explained that British perceptions of Gibraltar may not line up to that of Spain.

He said: “For Spain, it’s part of the national territory that is held by another country, and I think Britain doesn’t necessarily get that.

“British governments historically have not really seen how deeply ingrained that is for most Spaniards, that this is a kind of a wound – it’s an open sore from a treaty of 300 years ago.”

The historian added: “It’s much more important to the Spaniards than it is to the British.

“The British tend not to give it much thought.”

Dr Dowling made the comparison that “for Spain, it’s like how the Isle of Wight would be to Britain”.

Gibraltar’s future has been complicated since the UK left the European Union.

Last week, the EU approved a mandate for talks about Gibraltar’s relationship with the bloc post-Brexit. The December 31, 2020 deal did not include a hard border between the island and Spain.

A preliminary agreement on Gibraltar was drawn up in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, which includes Gibraltar’s membership to the Schengen area.

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A separate agreement covering how Gibraltar operates post-Brexit is still required.

Earlier this month, the EU backed down from suggestions Spanish authorities could be stationed on Gibraltar, opting instead to support the border being maintained by EU-managed agency, Frontex, the Financial Times reported.

In July, the then-Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, condemned EU proposals as seeking “to undermine the UK’s sovereignty” as it included removing some checks from the Gibraltar-Spanish border.

Approximately 15,000 Spaniards cross the border into Gibraltar on a daily basis.

More solid borders between Spain and Gibraltar would complicate matters for these workers, as well as for permanent residents and local businesses.

Considerations are not exclusively limited to these travelling workers.

Dr Dowling said: “Britain also has substantial – you know, hundreds of thousands – of expats who, since Brexit, have had their experience of living and working in Spain transformed. So, that’s a major impact.

“Also, leaving Covid aside, normally, substantial numbers of Britons visit Spain in terms of annual tourism.”

This is another example of the “strong connections between Britain and Spain, that aren’t there in the case of, say, Britain and Germany.

“It’s a different, and a differential, relationship than with most other European countries.”

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