Spanish PM’s anger at David Cameron over Gibraltar

Mariano RajoyImage copyright

Image caption

Mariano Rajoy says Gibraltar belongs to Spain

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is unhappy about David Cameron’s reported plan to make an EU referendum campaign stop in Gibraltar.

Mr Rajoy has said he wants Britain to stay in the EU.

But he added that Spain views Gibraltar as Spanish regardless of what happens in next week’s referendum, according to Spanish newspapers.

The PM is expected to visit Gibraltar to urge the 23,000 UK citizens entitled to vote to back remain.

Speaking on Spanish National Radio, Mr Rajoy said: “The government does not like Mr Cameron travelling to Gibraltar.”

He added that “what is being debated is that the United Kingdom remain in the EU or leave the EU and the campaign should happen in the United Kingdom and not in Gibraltar”.

‘Successful economy’

Conservative Leave campaigner Liam Fox, who is also on a visit to Gibraltar, said Mr Cameron “must make clear that whatever the referendum result the UK will fully back the sovereignty and security of Gibraltar – the message must be completely unequivocal”.

He added: “Gibraltar’s successful economy is based on tourism, shipping, financial services and online games. All would benefit from a free market without the supremacy of EU law and the regulations imposed by Brussels.”

Media captionGavin Lee reports from Gibraltar, where neighbouring Spain will have an impact in the way residents there vote in the EU referendum

Gibraltar is a self-governing British overseas territory so if the UK leaves the EU, Gibraltar – which is 2.2 square miles and stands at the mouth of the Mediterranean bordering Spain – leaves too.

Opinion polls suggest UK citizens in Gibraltar will vote to remain in the EU, amid concerns its border with Spain would be closed if Britain left, something Vote Leave say could still happen if Britain stayed in the EU.

Currently, Gibraltar is covered by EU rules governing the single market, specifically the free movement of people.

In March, Spain’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish radio Spain would demand control of Gibraltar the “very next day” after a British exit from the EU, according to the Gibraltar Chronicle.

In May, Gibraltar’s first minister Fabian Picardo told Sky News: “If Gibraltar wanted to have access to the single market and the rights we enjoy today of free movement, we would have to once again consider joint sovereignty with Spain, which no one in Gibraltar is prepared to consider.”

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