At a meeting on 29 April the European Council unanimously adopted the proposed guidelines for its negotiations with regard to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Many in Gibraltar had hoped that the infamous ‘Clause 22’ which appeared in the initial draft would have been removed after pressure from the Gibraltar and UK governments, but it still features, with the same wording, although it has now become ‘Clause 24’.
The clause reads: “After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.”
The Gibraltar government issued a press release after the announcement that the guidelines had been adopted, saying that the clause is “discriminatory and unfair. It flies in the face of the principle of sincere cooperation which the EU is committed to and which it repeats elsewhere in the guidelines.”
Nor is Gibraltar prepared to take such perceived discrimination lying down. In his speech during the May Day celebrations this week, chief minister Fabian Picardo said that his government would “respond with reciprocity” to any discrimination or prejudice by the European Union against the people of Gibraltar.
Opposition leader Daniel Feetham also had strong criticism of the EU after the announcement that the guidelines had been endorsed, tweeting “Clause 24 epitomises everything that is wrong with the EU. Political expediency over people. People who voted to remain. #Betrayal #Gibraltar.”
En last year’s referendum, Gibraltar voted 96 per cent in favour of the UK remaining in the European Union. As the only British Overseas Territory in Europe, it has no choice but to leave the EU alongside the UK. The chief minister insists that Gibraltar can prosper after Brexit despite the challenges, and since the EU negotiating guidelines are perceived to favour Spain and discriminate against the Rock, more Gibraltarians are now feeling that they will be better off out of the European Union after all.