A ‘careless mistake’ by a UK newspaper led to a flurry of reports this weekend wrongly claiming Gibraltar would consider joint sovereignty in the event of a Brexit.
Gibraltar Government officials spent much of the weekend contacting UK and Spanish newspapers demanding they correct stories suggesting shared sovereignty was a possibility outside the EU.
And last night, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo left no doubt as to the position
“There is no hope ever for Spain to achieve any advances on our sovereignty,” he said.
“I set out the position clearly in my ministerial statement explaining the unprecedented unity there is on the subject of the referendum.”
“In fact, as I said four years ago at the UN, the Spanish Government needs to wake up and smell the coffee – Gibraltar will never be Spanish. End of story.”
“Brexit or Bremain, the British sovereignty of Gibraltar is not for sale and is not at risk. Full stop.”
The controversy stemmed from a segment on Sky News in which Chief Minister Fabian Picardo referred to comments by Spain’s acting Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo.
Mr Picardo recalled how Sr García-Margallo had stated that if the UK left the EU, Gibraltar would have to consider joint sovereignty with Spain in order to retain access to the single market.
But the online UK newspaper The Independent wrongly attributed that statement to Mr Picardo himself, not to the Spanish minister, thus suggesting it was the Chief Minister who was calling for joint sovereignty.
No other British newspaper misinterpreted the Chief Minister’s words to Sky News in this way but most picked up the Independent’s story without checking the original source.
Within hours, the story had been picked up by Spain’s Europa Press news agency and was running in most Spanish media outlets.
Throughout Sunday morning, officials at No 6 Convent Place contacted each of those outlets in turn to explain the cause of the error and to ask for the articles to be removed.
It was mid-afternoon on Sunday before most of the inaccurate stories in online news pages in both the UK and Spain were finally corrected.
However a number of Sunday’s print newspaper ran with the misleading story, including Campo newspaper Europa Sur which splashed a five-column headline on its front page reading: “Picardo cree que el ‘brexit’ puede conducir a un Gibraltar español”
On Sunday, Mr Picardo gave further telephone interviews so as to provide editors with an accurate version of events.
‘It’s incredible the nonsense that we have to put up with in Gibraltar,” Mr Picardo said.
“Despite this careless reporting, we could not have been clearer throughout: we will never consider
Sr Margallo’s ‘joint sovereignty’ price for access to the Single Market – even if there were to be a Brexit majority in the referendum – or for any other price.”