The Spain-UK relation has become increasingly significant in terms of trade, direct investment, tourism, fisheries and the number of Britons living in Spain, by far the largest group of British expats in any European country.
Consequently, Spain has good reasons for wanting the best possible Brexit deal, but without allowing the UK to be better off outside the EU than inside it. A ‘hard’ Brexit could be particularly damaging for Spain. Could the nation whose Armada threatened England in 1588 and was defeated become London’s ally in the arduous Brexit negotiations?
A potential stumbling block is the age-old problem of Gibraltar, the UK overseas territory, ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and long claimed by Spain. Gibraltar voted 96% in favour of remaining in the EU.
The UK’s exit from the EU will make the Rock’s border with Spain an external and not an internal EU frontier and in an extreme situation could be closed. Some 12,000 people who work in Gibraltar cross the border every day from Spain. Madrid offered Gibraltar co-sovereignty as a way for the Rock to continue to be part of the EU, but this was quickly rejected.
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