Spain’s prestigious Elcano think tank believes the UK’s impending departure from the European Union could actually help settle a centuries-long dispute over The Rock.
The study claims Spain and the UK are now in a better position to decide a new status for Gibraltar, one that will be in the best interests of both nations.
The 50-page report, titled “Spain on the cusp of Brexit”, stresses that while Brexit is fundamentally “bad news” for Spain, for both financial and personal reasons, the UK’s divorce may have some upsides over Gibraltar.
The British Overseas Territory on Spain’s south coast voted Remain in the EU referendum.
Ignacio Molina, a senior analyst with Elcano in another Brexit report said: “Although sometimes overlooked, Spain and the United Kingdom have a strong relationship, both in economic terms and in terms of their populations.
“Differing visions of the future of Europe and tensions about Gibraltar sometimes give the impression that the two countries are not natural allies, but the presence of around 300,000 UK citizens living in Spain and about half that number of Spanish citizens living in the UK presents a somewhat different picture.”
One option put forward by Elcano is a special taxation area around Gibraltar and the joint management of The Rock’s airport by Spain and the UK.
The researchers added that “the Spanish government has said it doesn’t intend to reclaim sovereignty of Gibraltar by using Brexit as a bargaining tool” but it “does have the legitimate goal of rebalancing the conditions imposed by the United Kingdom in the 70s and 80s”.
These “privileged conditions” mentioned by Elcano refer to Gibraltar being “part of the internal market but not the customs union or the value-added tax area, which has been used to transform the territory into a fiscal paradise”.
Elcano’s researchers argue that though the issue of Gibraltar is at the centre of Spain’s Brexit plans, it is Gibraltarians that are hardest pressed to find solutions, on the verge of being dragged out of the EU by the UK even though they voted overwhelmingly to remain.
Spain and the UK have long held close personal and financial ties built primarily on investment and tourism.
Many Gibraltarians own property in Spain while 8,000 Spaniards from La Linea and other unemployment-ridden areas of southern Spain cross over into The Rock to work.
However, a future deal between both countries will mostly be dependent on what the UK agrees to with the EU in the final divorce agreement.