The European Union must guard against member states using Brexit to seek “inappropriate political gains”, a Czech MEP who argued against Gibraltar being described as a colony has said.
Petr Ježek was among a group of MEPs who argued against the controversial description of Gibraltar in EU legislation on post-Brexit visa-free travel.
The colony footnote was introduced by the European Council under Spanish pressure into a draft text that had already been approved – absent the word colony – by both the European Commission and the European Parliament.
While the Commission accepted the change, the Parliament’s civil liberties committee sought to have removed from the text. Ultimately though, Spanish pressure saw the parliament buckle
In an opinion piece for the Chronicle, Mr Ježek said the parliament had defended a position that was the product of good law making, adding that introducing the colony footnote had complicated a regulation that sought to protect citizens’ rights.
“Such inflammatory language has the potential to raise tensions in Europe, particularly given the anger of the British, and particularly Gibraltarians, who perceive the regulation as exploiting the UK as it goes through the process of leaving the EU,” he wrote.
“Ultimately, I failed to convince the main political groups. However, I am afraid it may just be the beginning.”
Mr Ježek said the row over the footnote illustrated that the UK was “very weak” as it negotiated its withdrawal from the EU and was “out of the game entirely”, especially when compared to other EU member states.
He also said the withdrawal process “could not have been more mishandled”.
“Nevertheless, the lives of British people should not be made even more difficult, and no EU member state should be using the situation to make inappropriate political gains at the expense of the UK,” Mr Ježek said.
“Furthermore, the EU should not turn a blind eye to such efforts. On the contrary. It should stick to its principles and values and not tolerate such behaviour and possible antagonism.”
“Any other European approach is not cricket.”
See opinion on page 4 of today’s print or e-edition.