Spain 'won't block Brexit deal with EU over Gibraltar'

Spain will not block a UK Brexit deal with the EU in order to force a claim on the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, its foreign minister has said.

Alfonso Dastis said he would not "jeopardise" a divorce deal by making claims on the territory, which Spain has long believed should be part of its kingdom.

It comes after suggestions that the EU could have given Spain a veto over Gibraltar's inclusion in any final post-Brexit trade deal.

Mr Dastis told Spanish newspaper ABC they would "try to convince" that joint sovereignty is a route worth exploring but would not force the issue.

What I don't want to do is jeopardise an EU-UK agreement by subjecting it to a need to alter Gibraltar's status at the same time. I won't make an agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom conditional on recovering sovereignty over Gibraltar.

Alfonso Dastis
Alfonso Dastis (front right) with the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Credit: PA

Mr Dastis' comments were welcomed in Britain.

Conservative backbencher Bob Neill, a member of the all party parliamentary group on Gibraltar, told the Sun: "If this is a genuine shift in the Spanish position we welcome it.

"We in the UK want to have a good relationship with Spain after we leave the EU. And the people of Gibraltar want a good relationship with Spain too."

Brussels draft guidelines on Brexit negotiations which appeared to indicate Spain could be given a veto over the territory's future had sparked fury both on The Rock and in the UK.

Prime Minister Theresa May responded by insisting Gibraltar's status was not up for discussion during withdrawal negotiations.'

Spain's King Felipe also addressed the issue on a visit to the UK in July, saying he was confident that an agreement could be reached that is "acceptable to all involved".