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GIBRALTAR

Gibraltar leader fears Spain sovereignty push over Brexit

Spain may try to force the issue of joint sovereignty with Britain over Gibraltar in the event of a Brexit, the territory's chief minister said in an interview aired on Saturday.

Gibraltar leader fears Spain sovereignty push over Brexit
Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Fabian Picardo told Sky News television that Spain might close the frontier gates with the British overseas territory if Britain votes to leave the European Union in a membership referendum on June 23rd, choking the peninsula of workers and land access to the continent.

Gibraltar's thriving services-based economy relies in large part on access to the EU's single market.

Picardo said Brexit supporters “would have a lot to answer for” if Madrid raised the possibility of joint sovereignty over the Rock – hitherto anathema to its 30,000-odd residents.

In case of a Brexit, the chief minister said: “The current Spanish foreign minister (Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo) has been explicit as to what that may mean.

“They've said that they might consider closing the frontier if the United Kingdom were to leave the European Union.

“And if Gibraltar wanted to continue to have access to the single market and the rights that we enjoy today of free movement, that we would have to once again consider the issue of joint sovereignty with Spain – which nobody in Gibraltar is prepared to consider.”

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713 but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty, and the territory remains a source of diplomatic tension.

In 2002, the Labour government of prime minister Tony Blair said Britain was willing to share sovereignty with Spain over Gibraltar.

The territory, which is internally self-governing, swiftly held a referendum on the idea, in which 98.5 percent voted no.

Britain leaving the EU would “seriously impair” London's ability to stand up for Gibraltar, Conservative British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned earlier this month on his first official visit to Rock.

Spain shut its gates on the solitary crossing with Gibraltar in 1969, fully reopening them in 1985 ahead of it joining the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community, the following year.

Inhabitants had to rely on air and sea links, typically via Britain or Morocco, to reach the other side of the 1.2-kilometre border.

Gibraltarians have the right to vote in Britain's EU referendum.

With less than four weeks to go until the vote, the Remain campaign is on 53 percent support and the Leave camp on 47 percent, according to the What UK Thinks website's average of the last six polls.

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BANKING

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.

READ MORE: 

Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account

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