GIB LEADER: Fabian Picardo

BRITISH ministers are set to guarantee Gibraltar that it will not be excluded from a Brexit deal by Spain. 

The British Overseas Territory fears Madrid wants to exploit leverage to reopen the question of its sovereignty.

The Rock’s chief minister Fabian Picardo is currently in London for talks with Brexit ministers over the negotiations.

It comes after the European Council sparked anger in Gibraltar with negotiating guidelines which granted Spain a veto over the territory’s fate after Brexit.

Picardo said Gibraltar’s parliament has its own veto, with the power to decide which parts of the final Brexit deal will apply to its 30,000 inhabitants.

But he said there was no question of reopening discussions on its future status, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Sovereignty is something which is settled.

“It was settled in the Helsinki accords and in Utrecht that the sovereignty of Gibraltar belongs to the UK and the people of Gibraltar.

“We don’t barter with sovereignty today as if we were in the 17th century, with kings passing around sovereignty of pieces of land.

“What we do is look at the interests of the people. What we do is talk to people and ask them what matters.

THERESA MAY: To guarantee Gibraltar will be included in deal

“We are very linked to the UK, we see the world through British eyes and we don’t want to change that.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable called for the British Government to be firmer in its defence of Gibraltar.

Sir Vince told the BBC: “It is an issue of fundamental principle. This has been attached to the UK for two centuries.

“We have seen off repeated demands by Spain to have control over the Rock, which has been a fundamental part of British interests.

“We shouldn’t allow Brexit to be used as a cloak for giving away what is a substantial British commitment.

“Let’s not forget that all of these people want to remain in the UK just as much as the majority of people in Northern Ireland.”

The EU insists, however, that Madrid can stop a transitional deal or future trade relationship applying to Gibraltar unless there is a Spain-UK agreement.

A UK government spokesperson said: “The EU’s guidelines are a matter for the EU and the other member states.

“The prime minister has said that as we negotiate these matters we will be negotiating to ensure that the relationships are there for Gibraltar as well.

“We are not going to exclude Gibraltar from our negotiations for either the implementation period or the future agreement.”