No 10 hits out after Gibraltar called British 'colony' in EU document on visa-free post-Brexit travel

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

Downing Street has clashed with Brussels over its description of Gibraltar as a “colony”.

The row was ignited after the European Council referred to the rock as an area occupied by Britain in a document setting out plans for Brits to have visa-free travel to the EU after Brexit.

The document references the “controversy between Spain and the UK,” over the sovereignty of the territory.

But the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “It is completely unacceptable to describe Gibraltar in this way.

“Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family. This will not change due to our exit from the EU.”

A spokesperson for Number 10 hits back at the document. Credit: PA

What have Gibraltar's leaders said about the document?

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, accused Madrid of trying to “bully” the British Overseas Territory by demanding the contentious description in the draft document.

Mr Picardo said: “No one will be surprised to hear the Spanish government making provocative statements in respect of Gibraltar.

“The 32,000 people of Gibraltar are used to the constant attempts by successive Spanish governments to bully us in every possible way.

“This is no different to the sort of abuse we have had from former Spanish administrations.”

Gibraltar has been British since the 1700s. Credit: PA

What problems has the disagreement over ownership of Gibraltar caused?

The ongoing row has been a subject of disagreement between the UK government and Madrid for decades.

Most recently, a row with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez over Gibraltar almost derailed efforts to agree the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between Theresa May and the EU in November.

The diplomatic spat which threatened to derail the Brexit process was resolved after a clarification about the legal position and emergency talks involving Mr Sanchez, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.