SPAIN has boasted of new powers that will allow it to “regain prominence” in Gibraltar for the first time in three centuries.
Foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya boasted the Rock’s post-Brexit deal hands Madrid significant influence over the territory.
She told the Spanish parliament the government would be able to prevent the “uncontrolled” development of international relationships between Gibraltar and its foreign partners. The UK has recently reached a deal with Madrid to secure the Rock’s post-Brexit future after the overseas territory was excluded from trade and security deal with the EU.
Downing Street and Brussels are still yet to strike up a formal agreement for the region, which was ceded to Britain after the War of Spanish Succession in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.
Under the plan, Gibraltar will likely join the EU’s Schengen free movement zone to protect cross-border business with Spain.
Madrid, which constantly has used Brexit in its bid to reclaim sovereignty of the Rock, has claimed this will mean it will be placed in charge of managing the bloc’s external frontier on behalf of Brussels. However, the Gibraltarian government has heavily disputed this with sources saying chief minister Fabian Picardo was infuriated by recent claims that the EU’s Frontex border guards will have boots on the ground on the Rock.
Addressing the Spanish parliament’s EU committee, Ms Gonzalez Laya said the agreement will hand Madrid significant influence over Gibraltar’s economy and foreign affairs.
“Gibraltar has connections with the Gulf, Russia and Chinese economic players, especially Hong Kong, which could have developed in an uncontrolled manner in detriment of our country’s interests,” she said.
The foreign minister claimed the Rock’s technology and internet firms “could have operated without restrictions and eventually cause damage to the Spanish Treasury and several economic sectors in the absence of fair competition rules”.
And Ms Gonzalez Laya claimed a no-deal scenario would have seen Madrid “lose its capacity of influence and control over this territory for at least one generation”.
She insisted the UK-Spain agreement over Gibraltar will allow Madrid to “regain prominence” in the territory with a “clear plan for the future”.
Ms Gonzalez Laya said she hoped the pact would be the end of a bitter struggle to win control of the Rock, which “will not be a matter of confrontation” with the UK as long both sides ease their claims of sovereignty.
Chief minister Mr Picardo this week declared: “Nothing will ever clear the people of Gibraltar from the United Kingdom and our Britishness”.
Speaking to the House of Lords, he insisted Gibraltar would pursue good relationships with Spain but would not engage with Madrid’s “jingoistic nationalism”.
Mr Picardo said: “The nature of the relationship should be a strong and positive one.
“Gibraltar has never been the aggressor in the context of the relationship between us and Spain.
“We have always sought to have that relationship of good neighborliness and positivity.
“That is the reality of what Gibraltar is.”
He added: “We do not seek jingoistic nationalism that is so often on the front of Spanish newspapers when it comes to Gibraltar.
“What we seek is normality and the positive relationship of cooperation going forward.
“What we see is an opportunity in the attitude taken by the current Spanish government in many but not all respects.
“I hope the future represents more cooperation and less confrontation.”
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