Gibraltar's leader furious over EU Brexit proposal

Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo poses for a photograph following an interview with AFP at Gibraltar House in central London on January 25, 2017

Gibraltar's leader Fabian Picardo on Friday hit out at an EU proposal to give Spain a say in the future of the British overseas territory post-Brexit, branding it "unnecessary" and "discriminatory."

In guidelines unveiling the EU's position in upcoming negotiations for Britain to exit the bloc, a clause stipulates that Spain must have a say over whether any post-Brexit deal applies to the tiny rocky outcrop at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula Madrid has long wanted back.

The clause is likely to face a fierce backlash from London, which has long been engaged in a sovereignty row with Spain over Gibraltar and has pledged to stand by its overseas territory known as the Rock. But it was welcome by Madrid.

"This is a disgraceful attempt by Spain to manipulate the European Council for its own, narrow, political interests," Picardo said in a statement.

"Brexit is already complicated enough without Spain trying to complicate it further," he added, branding the proposed singling out of Gibraltar "unnecessary, unjustified, unacceptable" and "discriminatory."

The draft proposal means that Madrid could potentially block Gibraltar's access to any trade deal Britain negotiates with the EU, opposition politicians in the Rock claim.

It also shows that the European Union is putting Spain -- its member state -- first.

A senior EU official said the issue of Gibraltar was included in the negotiating guidelines as it is one of a number that involve joint or contested jurisdiction, and that "the EU is naturally pursuing the interests of the remaining 27 member states."

Gibraltarians want to stay British, as demonstrated in 2002 when they rejected a referendum on shared sovereignty with Spain.

In last year's Brexit referendum, 96 percent voted against leaving the European Union, but they still appear set on remaining British after the vote.

Still, sensing an opportunity after the outcome, Spain again proposed shared sovereignty, arguing it would allow Gibraltar -- whose economy largely depends on the EU single market -- to remain in the bloc.

Picardo has repeatedly rejected the proposal, and did so again on Friday.

"The whole world and the whole EU should know: this changes nothing in respect of our continued, exclusive British sovereignty," he said.

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