EU official sparks anger by saying Gibraltar is Spanish in Brexit talks

An EU commissioner has riled up long-running tensions by saying that Gibraltar is Spanish while disregarding hopes for a Brexit deal ahead of a June deadline.

“Gibraltar español,” Margaritis Schinas said, when asked about the issue at a briefing in Seville.

The slogan means “Gibraltar is Spanish” and goes back to the Franco era, and is often said by those who claim the territory belongs to Spain.

Known as the Rock, Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory and city located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

It was surrendered to Britain in 1712 under the Treaty of Utrecht and has not been part of Spain since then.

The UK and EU are negotiating to secure a deal for a post-Brexit common travel area between Spain and Gibraltar before the European Parliament elections in June.

If the deal is not struck before June, Gibraltar could face full border controls on movement to and from Spain.

However, as Spain has not demanded sovereignty over Gibraltar as part of Brexit negotiations, Commissioner Schinas’s comments have been widely criticised.

José Manuel Albares, Spain’s foreign minister, said the remarks are “very unfortunate and incomprehensible”.

He added that Commissioner Schinas £is not at all involved in the dossier of the withdrawal agreement concerning Gibraltar“.

“It is Commissioner Maros Sefcovic, with whom I have also had a conversation about it, and we both, both the commissioner who knows and handles that negotiation and myself, agree that the negotiations are progressing at a good pace,” he said.

“And I have also conveyed to Commissioner Schinas that, besides his statements being unfortunate, I hope that in the future only the commissioner in charge of that negotiation, which is Maros Sefcovic, will be the one to comment on it.”

Speaking to Spain’s state broadcaster RTVE on Thursday night, he said: “

Mr Albares and Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president who is leading the Gibraltar talks, issued a joint statement condemning the remarks.

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