British Prime Minister Theresa May says the UK’s position on Gibraltar has not changed following claims she caved in to Spanish demands over the territory’s future.
European Union leaders are poised to give their seal of approval to May’s Brexit deal at a summit on Sunday, which had been threatened by a diplomatic row with Madrid.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that the UK and EU had agreed to its demands for guarantees over the status of Gibraltar in future negotiations.
But May contradicted him in statements to reporters in Brussels.
“The UK’s position on the sovereignty of Gibraltar has not changed and will not change,” she said.
“I am proud that Gibraltar is British and I will always stand by Gibraltar.”
The diplomatic spat which threatened to derail the Brexit process was resolved after emergency talks involving Sanchez, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
A letter from UK ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow confirmed the Withdrawal Agreement imposes no obligations regarding the “territorial scope” of future agreements.
But the UK has also made clear it will negotiate future agreements on behalf of all territories for whose external relations it is responsible – including Gibraltar.
“We have ensured that Gibraltar is covered by the whole Withdrawal Agreement and by the implementation period, and we will always negotiate on behalf of the whole UK family, including Gibraltar, and in the future relationship we will stand up for their interests,” May said.
May also faced domestic difficulties on Saturday as Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party held its conference in Belfast, with former foreign secretary Boris Johnson making a guest appearance.
Johnson was given a rousing reception at the conference and said the UK is on the verge of “making a historic mistake”.
“Unless we junk this backstop, we will find that Brussels has got us exactly where they want us – a satellite state,” he said.