4th April 2019
A European Parliament vote today calling for a "solution" to the sovereignty of Gibraltar undermines the EU's position as a defender of democracy, self-determination and human rights.
Conservative Home Affairs spokesman Daniel Dalton described the move, which was instigated by Spain and supported by other member states in the European Council, as "unacceptable, unnecessary and not what you expect of a close partner."
The footnote was added at a late stage to a report exempting UK citizens from the need to obtain visas when travelling into the Schenghen Area in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It states that "Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown" and that "there is a controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached."
The Parliament initially opposed the addition and the report's lead MEP, or rapporteur, UK Labour MEP Claude Moraes, proposed several compromise solutions. All were rejected by the Council and earlier this week Mr Moraes was stripped of the rapporteurship by fellow MEPs amidst claims his nationality made it impossible for him to be impartial. Conservatives strongly opposed his removal.
Speaking after the report was approved by MEPs this morning, Mr Dalton said: "This politically motivated affair undermines the EU's standing as a union that claims to champion democracy, self-determination and human rights around the world. It has allowed the Spanish government to hijack European legislation for its own ends as it heads into a difficult domestic election.
"It is vitally important that we protect the right of UK and EU citizens to continue travelling visa-free in the event of a no deal Brexit. But we could not vote for this report and accept a claim on part of our territory. The people of both Britain and Gibraltar would have expected nothing less of us."
Conservative delegation leader and Gibraltar MEP Ashley Fox, who unsuccessfully called for the vote to be delayed today, said: "Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory with its own government, not a colony. And its people have made it crystal clear that is how they want to remain.
"Spain and the EU can posture all they like, but Gibraltar's sovereignty is not negotiable. It is disappointing they were willing to jeopardise their citizens' right to visa-free travel post-Brexit in order to make this futile gesture."