A senior official in the Spanish Government left no doubt yesterday that Spain could use the border to exert pressure on Gibraltar in the event of a Brexit, even to the point of closing it.
The official told The Times that a UK withdrawal would mean Spain could “tear up its obligations” to Gibraltar under EU law.
“We do not see Britain leaving the European Union as an opportunity but you have to understand that if Brexit happened it would change our obligations to Gibraltar,” the source told The Times.
“No longer would we have to respect the free movement of labour, not having long queues and the free movement of capital and goods which Brussels demands. We could even close the border if we wanted.”
The official did not want to be named but has close knowledge of the Brexit negotiations, according to the UK newspaper.
While cloaked in anonymity, the statements echo similar comments made on the record by the head of Spanish diplomacy, acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo.
They also come after the British Government warned in a report there could be no guarantee the border would remain open in the event of a UK withdrawal from the EU.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo reacted angrily to the suggestion from the unnamed Spanish official that Spain could use the border to pile pressure on Gibraltar.
“Why would a modern European country behave despotically to a democratic people whose only desire is to have good relations and co-operation with our neighbours?” he told the Times.
“Gibraltar will not surrender its sovereignty, not one bit of our land, not one drop of our territorial waters and not one breath of air.”
“We have seen off many sieges of many kinds and the Gibraltarian spirit is as resolved and determined to defend our rights. Gibraltar will never surrender.”
The British Government also reacted to the story published by the Times.
“The UK will continue to defend and support Gibraltar’s interests, and uphold British sovereignty,” a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office told the Chronicle.
The spokeswoman was echoing a recent parliamentary response to former Gibraltar Governor Lord Luce.
“The UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes,” she added.
“Furthermore, the UK will not enter into any process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.”