The UK and Spain must loosen their reigns, and honour historical self-determined agreements.
In an interesting twist, the EU has included a condition for the UK to resolve the Gibraltar issue with Spain in Brexit negotiations, bringing an undesired hurdle for UK to eliminate. Although Spain demands full or joint sovereignty with the UK, the 32,000 Gibraltar citizens have clearly expressed their dislike to be co-ruled by Spain, through a 98% to 2% 2002 referendum. Gibraltar, thus, wants to remain British by large. Conversely, 96% of Gibraltar voted ‘Remain’ in last year’s UK referendum to exit EU. The issue of Gibraltar affecting Brexit negotiations is turning more mysterious, as economic impacts and free movement of EU citizens are more closely analysed.
Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, a democratic tool for EU members to express their desire to leave the EU, is the deciding factor. Gibraltar automatically joined the EU when the UK became a part of the bloc in 1973, according to which it must now imply that the decision of leaving the EU applies to Gibraltar too. ‘The Rock’, as it is popularly called, is bereft of any agricultural land and natural resources, and is largely dependent on the UK and EU. It earns its living on two primary sectors, online gaming and financial services industry. Any decision that affects the fate of the Gibraltarians would be to indulge in an unreasonable act. The Rock currently enjoys free movement of people from Spain through to the UK and back. Disturbing such a transcendental understanding between UK and Spain must not, in any manner, affect Gibraltar and its moral right of self-determination. Spain must accept the Gibraltar verdict, which has unanimously voted to remain British and not allow any co-sovereignty. The EU, too, must recognise the intent of Gibraltarians, who demand to remain with the UK, and therefore disallow Spain to be a party in Brexit talks.
Bringing Spain in Brexit talks and giving it a veto would automatically undermine the Treaty of Utrecht. By analysing and relying on the fact that Gibraltar depends on financial services and gaming industry for its revenues, the EU must be willing to believe that even post Brexit, Gibraltar shall remain an important economic partner. The fear of Gibraltar asking for a special deal with the EU outside of UK and demanding full sovereignty is never ruled out, for in democracy, freedom of individual existence is an untenable right.
Theresa May has been cordial and content about Gibraltar’s fate, and presupposes its undisputable loyalty and sovereignty over Gibraltar. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was quick to accept that Gibraltar has been and shall remain an inseparable part of the UK, and any change in its sovereignty shall not be executed without the consent of the Gibraltarians. May must use the Treaty of Utrecht as a ferocious weapon against Spain to dislodge EU from its demand of resolving Gibraltar issue as a prerequisite in Brexit talks. If EU does not honour the Treaty of Utrecht, which Spain willingly signed, May can probably knock the European Court of Justice.
Above all the demands of sovereignty rules, historical ownership claims and transfer of rights, the fate of Gibraltarians lie in the contents of their reasoned will, which clearly leans toward UK to avoid a ‘crisis of identity’, and toward EU to avoid a ‘crisis of economic peril’. Gibraltarians’ verdict must pervade all demands of sovereignty.