But Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has backed the Spanish Government’s interpretation of the withdrawal agreement which takes Britain out of the bloc, and specifically the section relating to Gibraltar, which Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said will give Spain a say when it comes to its future sovereignty. Speaking to radio station Onda Cero, Mr Manley said: “Our position is, has been and will always be very clear. Gibraltar will always be British and we will not enter into negotiations on its the sovereignty.”
Mr Manley said there was no question of discussions about co-sovereignty either, adding: “We are not going to change our position.
“We will negotiate in the interest of the entire British family.”
His words echo those of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who said during a debate to mark the centenary of the RAF: Mr Williamson replied: “Ever since the Royal Marines seized it all those centuries ago, it will always be under the Union flag long into the future so do rest assured we will always look after Gibraltar.”
Mr Sanchez had said he was ready to veto the deal which Mrs May presented to EU leaders at the weekend – but withdrew his threat after securing a joint declaration from the European Council and European Commission which guarantees the political, legal and even geographical relationship of Gibraltar with the EU will “pass through Spain” after Brexit.
He later said: “We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.
“We will talk about everything. The goal is to solve, once and for all, a conflict that has lasted 300 years.”
Nevertheless, he made it clear he believed his country was in a “new position of strength”, claiming EU institutions had said in writing Spain would have a say in Gibraltar’s future.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell was more bullish, declared his country to have the power to veto any future agreement with the EU on Gibraltar, and insisting anything which involves the Rock will have to go through Madrid.
He said: “What is that about not having legal value?
“The United Kingdom loses a certain sovereign capacity it is no longer free to negotiate with the EU over Gibraltar”.
Mr Maas, speaking alongside Mr Borrell during a joint appearance in Madrid, backed up Spain’s interpretation of the agreement with relation to Gibraltar.
He said: “I am a bit surprised about this debate in Spain.
“The position of the German Government is very clear: it is a legally binding text, a legally binding interpretation.
“I do not know anyone in the EU who thinks differently
“Questioning the binding nature of these texts has nothing to do with the legal reality of the EU.”
Gibraltar has been a British overseas territory since 1713.
The battle of Trafalgar, arguably Britain’s greatest ever naval victory, saw Admiral Horatio Nelson defeat a combined force of French and Spanish ships off the Gibraltar coast in 1805.