Spain has renewed calls for joint sovereignty of Gibraltar in the wake of the UK's exit from the European Union but Britain has sternly rejected the proposal. Hours after the EU referendum results, Spain's acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said Spain and the UK could share jurisdiction over the British oversees territory.
"It's a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignty – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the rock – is much closer than before," he told Onda Cero radio renewing a potential flare-up in Anglo-Spanish relations.
Gibraltar, known as "the rock", has been a flashpoint between the UK and Spain. The 30,000-odd residents of Gibraltar overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU.
The peninsula located on Spain's south coast across the sea from Morocco has been a British territory since 1713 but Spain repeatedly lays claim on the enclave. Striking a cautious note, the Spanish minister said he is not hailing the UK's vote in leaving the EU but only insisting on the sovereignty of Gibraltar.
However, his comments have come in for sharp criticism from Britain, which has yet again made it clear it has no plans of giving away control of the peninsula. David Lidington, Britain's minister for Europe, said in a statement: "I want to be absolutely clear. The United Kingdom will continue to stand beside Gibraltar. We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against your wishes. Furthermore, the UK will not enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content."
Calls for shared sovereignty emerged in 2001-02 as well but the residents of Gibraltar – who are mostly British citizens holding British passports – voted against the proposal in a referendum.
Shortly after the UK's referendum vote on the EU, Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo called for calm by writing on Twitter: "We have surpassed greater challenges. It is time for unity, for calm & for rational thinking. Together & united we will continue to prosper."