Economy

Gibraltar row flares up as Brexit visa legislation agreed

Gibraltar row flares up as Brexit visa legislation agreed

In a proposed regulation that could see Britons granted visa-free access to the European Union even in the case of a no-deal Brexit, the bloc made a distinction between those living in the United Kingdom and those who are citizens of Gibraltar - a British overseas territory in southern Spain.

The UK's ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, objected to it at a meeting in Brussels earlier.

A footnote was attached to the visa legislation at Spain's insistence, which has contested sovereignty of The Rock for three centuries.

Britain complained about the European Union calling Gibraltar a "colony" in a piece of draft legislation on Friday, highlighting how the EU is lining up behind Spain in its territorial dispute as Britain quits the bloc.

In particular, it stated: "Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown".

European Union visa exemptions cover short trips of up to three months and now some 60 countries in the world, from Argentina to Japan to Ukraine, benefit from the system.

There is, however, concern among other European Union members that Madrid's hard line could disrupt efforts to ease Britain out of the bloc.

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"This will not change due to our exit from the EU".

Gibraltar, home to 33,000 people, was ceded to Britain by Spain in 1713, in perpetuity. "All parties should respect the people of Gibraltar's democratic wish to be British".

The wording of the official European Council document appeared to have one eye at least on the machinations of the British government at Westminster, where a growing number of senior government ministers are discussing delaying Brexit itself.

In a 2002 referendum on whether Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar, 99 percent of voters said no, similar to the outcome of a referendum in 1967.

The British parliament voted Tuesday on amendments that rejected a no-deal Brexit and authorized UK Prime Minister Theresa May to return to Brussels for more talks on a legally binding change to the Irish border proposal contained in the draft Brexit deal agreed by Brussels and London at the end of 2018. The European Parliament said last month that they would be in support of letting United Kingdom citizens travel without visas throughout the EU even if there was no deal in place by the time that the United Kingdom leaves.

In the 2016 Brexit referendum, Gibraltar voted by an overwhelming 96% to remain in the EU.