In Brief

Spain ‘secretly lobbied’ US in plan to end UK sovereignty over Gibraltar

‘Aggressive’ campaign sought to build American support for more Spanish control over the outpost

A US congressional resolution backing British control of Gibraltar unleashed a “belligerent” Spanish campaign of diplomacy, insiders are claiming. 

Seven current or former members of the US House of Representatives told The Telegraph that “the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C. pushed back after they signed a resolution backing Gibraltar’s British status or visited the territory”.

According to the newspaper, Spain’s “secret lobbying drive” was intended to whip up support for “a plan to strip Britain of sole sovereignty over Gibraltar”.

The colony “has been a continuing source of friction between Madrid and London”, particularly since Britain voted to leave the EU, says Madrid-based newspaper El Pais.

From 1 January, both the UK and Gibraltar will be outside the bloc, along with its single market and customs union. “While London is facing the prospect with relative calm, alarm bells are going off in the British Overseas Territory,” the paper adds.

Some Spanish politicians had sought to use the prospect of a Brexit deal as leverage to extract concessions from the UK government.

“The centre-right People’s Party had called for Spain’s government to ‘take advantage of the historic opportunity of Brexit’ to snatch back the overseas territory from Britain,” the Daily Express reported last month.

“But Pedro Sanchez, the country’s left-wing prime minister, has convinced his allies to drop the claim due to the importance of striking a trade deal with the UK.”

According to The Telegraph, Spain’s efforts to lobby US politicians were unusually energetic.

“Some congressmen said while diplomats should be allowed to argue their case the attitude of Spanish officials was perceived at times as ‘belligerent’, ‘forceful’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘over the line’,” the paper reports.

“One commented: ‘The Spaniards went nuts.’”

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