Along with the good news on Friday that the EU would allow short-term visa-free travel to British citizens in the event of a No-Deal Brexit, as long as this is reciprocal, there was an unpleasant surprise for Gibraltar. The draft EU document stated this would not cover British overseas territories citizens who have acquired their citizenship from a connection with Gibraltar, although chief minister Fabian Picardo later pointed out that this will not affect Gibraltarians because they are full British citizens in their own right.
A footnote to the text, added at the behest of Spain, says: “Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown. 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 in light of the relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly of the United Nations.”
The UK and Gibraltar governments were quick to point out that Gibraltar is no longer a ‘colony’, with prime minister Theresa May saying that to describe it as such is “completely unacceptable”. In a statement headed “Gibraltar’s legal status is a matter of fact, not opinion,” the Gibraltar government pointed out that the relationship with the United Kingdom nowadays is that of a partnership and is no longer colonial in nature.
The British Overseas Territory is still featured on the UN’s list of non-self-governing territories, but the authorities in the UK and Gibraltar insist that this is an anachronism and that it should be removed. Every year Gibraltar attends the UN Committee of 24 to ask for this to be done, but it is continually blocked by Spain.
“The irony is that it is Spain itself that is keeping Gibraltar on the UN list and then using our presence there to label Gibraltar as a colony”, said the statement.
In a TV interview chief minister Fabian Picardo said this wording would have no practical effect on Gibraltar leaving the European Union, or its sovereignty, but he described it as futile, unnecessary and provocative. “This is totally out of place in the modern Europe of today,” he said.