Written by our campaign agent Sophie Church
Gibraltar lies just off the Iberian peninsula, near to where Spain meets Morocco. For such a small region, Gibraltar has been discussed endlessly by governments, Spanish nationals and the British public for what seems forever. This is all because Gibraltar’s sovereignty has always been in question.
In 1704 an Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain. The territory was then ceded to Great Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. However, on two occasions Spain tried to wrest Gibraltar back from the British, to no avail. 2002 brought a new offer to the people of Gibraltar: a tied governance from Spain and Britain, which they promptly refused. The Gibraltarian people have always felt that their governance has no right to be claimed by Spain, nor the right to be given away by Britain. From 2002, Britain has respected Gibraltar’s wish to remain self-governing in most aspects of leadership.
However, the coming of Brexit has signalled the resurgence of mixed emotions concerning Gibraltar. The tension between the Spanish and British over who truly rules Gibraltar has bubbled up to the surface yet again. 2016’s referendum saw 96% of Gibraltarians vote to remain in the EU, so the decision to leave the Union has caused anxiety for most of the population. In the other camp, the Spanish have taken the opportunity of Britain’s exit as a green light to start up a conversation about Spanish sovereignty once more. It is feared that Spain will alter Spanish-Gibraltarian trade deals, causing suffrage to the latter’s economy. It is thus a difficult time for Gibraltarians.
The Prime Minister’s decision to conduct separate talks with Spain away from the EU/UK talks regarding Gibraltar has led some Gibraltarians to feel marginalised and fearing for their future position. It is an uncertain time for not only Gibraltar, but for all of Europe. However, what is clear is that Theresa May’s position regarding Gibraltar remains dogged and steadfast. She will neither concede nor even negotiate Gibraltar’s sovereignty with Spain.