by Alice Mascarenhas and PA Gavin Cordon and Jon Val
UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday warned the sovereignty of Gibraltar would not be up for negotiation in the Brexit talks when she met European Council president Donald Tusk for the first time since triggering Article 50.
At the meeting at 10 Downing Street Mrs May made clear to Mr Tusk that the UK’s position on Gibraltar had not changed.
“The UK would seek the best possible deal for the Rock as the UK exits the EU,” a spokesman at No.10 said following the meeting.
“There would be no negotiation on the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the consent of its people.”
Her message followed Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s assurances at a press conference on the Rock on Wednesday that he had received assurances and was confident the UK Government would not enter into new agreements with the EU on Gibraltar and would staunchly defend her interests.
EU sources said after the meeting at No. 10 yesterday that both sides had recognised the need to “lower tensions” on contentious issues like the future of the Rock.
But Downing Street said the Prime Minister had made clear there could be no change to its status without the consent of its people.
EU sources said it had been a “good and friendly” meeting, with the talks running on for almost two hours.
“They agreed to stay in regular contact throughout the Brexit process to keep a constructive approach and seek to lower tensions that may arise, also when talks on some issues like Gibraltar inevitably will become difficult,” one source said.
No 10 said the Prime Minister had reiterated her desire to secure a “deep and special partnership” with the remaining 27 member states, welcoming the European Council’s “constructive approach” to the negotiations.
She said the UK looked forward to formally beginning negotiations once the 27 member states agreed guidelines.
“Both leaders agreed that the tone of discussions had been positive on both sides and agreed that they would seek to remain in close touch as the negotiations progressed,” a spokesman said.
With the UK also remaining a full and engaged member of the EU for the next two years, the Prime Minister and Donald Tusk also discussed the agenda for the next EU Council meeting.