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Brexit: Spain calls for shared sovereignty over Gibraltar

Spain on Friday proposed sharing sovereignty over Gibraltar after Britain voted to leave the European Union, saying it would allow the overseas territory to maintain access to the EU's single market.

Brexit: Spain calls for shared sovereignty over Gibraltar
Photo: AFP

“Our formula… is British-Spanish co-sovereignty for a determined period of time, which after that time has elapsed, will head towards the restitution of Gibraltar to Spanish sovereignty,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish radio.

The tiny rocky outcrop nestled on Spain's southern tip has long been a source of friction between London and Madrid, which wants it back under its control centuries after it was ceded to Britain in 1713.

Spain's conservative government, which has been in place since 2011, has been particularly vocal about its desire to see Gibraltar come back into its fold, and the Rock is worried that Brexit will leave it at the mercy of Madrid.

Margallo said the issue of Gibraltar was no longer within the remit of the European Union.

“It is now a bilateral issue that will be negotiated exclusively between the United Kingdom and Spain,” he added, saying a solution would have to be found if Gibraltar wanted to keep its access to the EU's single market.  

The Rock, as it is known, relies in large part on access to the single market for its thriving economy.

In a tweet, Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who called a crisis cabinet meeting on Friday morning, called for calm.

 

 

 

Gibraltar, the tiny British Overseas Territory at the foot of Spain was the first to declare its result. And it was the least surprising of all the EU referendum vote counts.

Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly (96 percent) in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union with 96 percent. With a turnout of 84 percent, 19,322 checked the box to stay in the EU and a mere 823 voted to leave. 

On Friday morning, fueled by Garcia Margallo's comments, #GibraltarEspañol was trending on Twitter.

Spanish workers on the other side of the border, many of whom depend on jobs in Gibraltar for their livelihood, reacted with “a lot of concern and fear.”

The border town of La Linea de la Concepcion is of particular concern.

Unemployment in this 72,000-strong city stands at 40 percent, one of the worst-hit places in Spain, and the majority of those who work do so over the border.

Juan Jose Uceda of the Association of Spanish Workers in Gibraltar said the grouping feared that the “work situation for thousands of Spaniards and foreigners working in Gibraltar will become more difficult.”

They fear that the crucial land border crossing to Gibraltar – a long-time flashpoint in the row between the Rock and Spain – could be affected as it has been in the past.

In one particularly belligerent row over disputed waters, Spanish authorities upped border checks in 2013, creating hours-long logjams and forcing the European Commission to wade in and ease the crisis.

But Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sought to ease their concerns in a televised address.

“With regards to Spanish citizens working in Gibraltar… their rights have not changed,” he said.

But those who work in Gibraltar and live in Spain were already voicing their concerns,

Gavin Doughty Spain: Was not expecting that.

“On a personal level my life is going to have drastic changes,” Gavin Doughty, a Brit lives in Spain but works in Gibraltar, told the Local.

” got paid today 10 percent less than I would have yesterday and my company's EU passporting rights will only apply for the next two years at most. So besides facing the possibility of being an illegal alien in Spain I am probably going to lose my job too.”

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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