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GIBRALTAR

Spain won’t seek to recover Gibraltar in Brexit talks: minister

Spain will not set as a condition in Brexit talks that it recovers Gibraltar, its foreign minister said in a Sunday interview that could ease tensions over the disputed British territory.

Spain won't seek to recover Gibraltar in Brexit talks: minister
Photo: dubassy/Depositphotos

Nestled on Spain's southern tip, Gibraltar has been under British control since 1713, but Madrid has long wanted it back.

Authorities in the tiny rocky outcrop fear Spain will influence complex negotiations between the EU and Britain to leave the bloc to try and gain authority over Gibraltar.

But in an interview with Spain's conservative daily ABC, Alfonso Dastis said he didn't want to “jeopardise” the deal by demanding that Gibraltar change its status — a stance that Britain would likely never accept”.

“I won't make an agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom conditional on recovering sovereignty over Gibraltar,” he said.

READ ALSO: Spain says it would not block general Brexit agreement over Gibraltar

He added that Spain's proposal of joint sovereignty over the Rock, which would see people in Gibraltar get the Spanish nationality on top of the British one, still stood.

“We will try to convince the Gibraltarians that this is a route worth exploring and that it would benefit them too,” he said.

Spain has argued this will allow Gibraltar to stay in the 27-member bloc, but authorities there categorically reject the idea.

Gibraltarians had already rejected such a proposal in a 2002 referendum, and they want to stick with the Union Jack despite voting by 96 percent to remain in the EU.

Dastis's comments appear conciliatory as tough Brexit negotiations are under way.

But Britain will still have to wrangle over a clause inserted into the EU's negotiating position which states that post Brexit, Spain will have the right to veto any future relationship between the 27-member bloc and Gibraltar.

This clause caused huge tensions when it was unveiled in March, prompting British Prime Minister Theresa May to say she would “never” allow Gibraltar to slip from British control against the wish of Gibraltarians. 

READ ALSO: Gibraltar: a history of ill will over the Rock

BREXIT

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?

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