Gibraltar lashed out at “bullying” Spain for being behind the move and claimed its powerful neighbour takes every chance to “stick its finger in our eye”. Theresa May’s officials issued an angry rebuke after the official documents were released yesterday. Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador in the EU, also clashed with his counterparts about the jibe during talks in Brussels.
Eurocrats were accused of “playing politics” over the decision to side with Spain by stating sovereignty of The Rock is disputed and calling it a colony.
The row blew up after the remaining 27 EU nations agreed to offer Britons visa-free travel after March 29 even if the UK leaves without an exit deal in place.
But the draft laws included the highly inflammatory passage about Gibraltar’s status.
It said: “Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown. There is a controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar.”
Gibraltar has vowed Spain cannot ‘one grain of sand of Gibraltar’s territory or one drop of water’
We will not allow one grain of sand of Gibraltar’s territory or one drop of our water to be taken by Spain
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Spain was trying to “exploit” its position as a remaining member of the EU to play games.
He said: “We consider this language to be unnecessarily provocative.
“I don’t know what Spain is playing at.”
He said Madrid wanted to “score points” as the Brexit process stumbles and vowed Gibraltar would alway remain British.
He added: “Our giant neighbour takes whatever opportunity it might to stick its finger in our eye.”
The EU sparked fury after draft travel laws labelled Gibraltar as ‘a colony of the British Crown’
“Gibraltar will not change its sovereignty. We will not allow one grain of sand of Gibraltar’s territory or one drop of our water to be taken by Spain.”
No 10 issued an angry response after the documents were released.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is completely unacceptable to describe Gibraltar as a colony in this way.
“Gibraltar is full part of the UK family. This will not change due to our exit from the EU.”
Conservative Bob Neill chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gibraltar, said: “Gibraltar is fully functioning democracy, with its own directly elected Parliament and independent judiciary and self governing in all its internal affairs. The EU are totally wrong on this.”
Tory Bob Stewart, also a member of the APPG, said Brussels was trying to upset the UK.
He said: “These people do anything to irritate us.
“Gibraltar is not a colony, it’s an overseas territory and it is self-governing.
“They are trying to irritate the hell out of us.
“The people there are British, they want to remain British, end of story.
“I think Spain has got a damn cheek. Spain has got territories in North Africa and the North African states want those territories back.
“They ought to look to their own business first.
“And Brussels should keep their nose out of something that’s a matter for Britain.”
Theresa May’s spokesman said it was ‘completely unacceptable’ for Gibraltar to be labelled a colony
The territory at the southern tip of Spain is self-governing apart from defence and foreign policy, which is covered by the UK government.
It has been British for more than 300 years and was reclassified as an “overseas territory” in 2002.
That year, 99 percent of Gibraltarians rejected the idea of the UK sharing sovereignty with Spain in a referendum.
But Madrid has tried to use the Brexit negotiations to renew its claim to the outcrop.
A row with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez over Gibraltar almost derailed efforts to agree the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between Mrs May and the EU in November.
The diplomatic spat which threatened to derail the exit process was resolved after a clarification about the legal position and emergency talks involving Mr Sanchez, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
Mrs May, who has asked Brussels to reopen the withdrawal agreement, has previously warned that such a move could lead to a fresh push for control from Spain.
Tory MEP Daniel Dalton said Gibraltarians were “dismayed” that the EU would “back Spain against them”.
He added: Spain’s government likes to play politics with Gibraltar when it’s down in the polls. Surprised to read reports that EU officials have made the same mistake. The Rock is not a colony.”
A spokesman for the European Commission repeatedly refused to say if Brussels believes Gibraltar is a colony.
“I’m not going to get into this at all,” he said.
The legal document that sparked the latest row will be discussed by the European Parliament and the EU executive but the UK is unlikely to be able to have the passage removed.
Senior EU officials recently indicated that the “table has turned” over which side Brussels will now take.
“We will always take the side of a member against a non-member,” the source said.
Spanish sources said this week that Madrid would insist on excluding Gibraltar from all agreements between Britain and the EU once Britain has left.