SPEAKING to a packed Royal Gallery in the House of Lords, King Felipe of Spain has called on the British government to work towards a new agreement over the future of Gibraltar and demanded greater certainty over the future rights of Spaniards living in the UK, and Britons in Spain after Brexit.
Addressing peers and MPs as part of his state visit to the UK, King Felipe VI said there while there had “been estrangements, rivalries and disputes” in the countries’ history, those were now relegated to the past.
The king expressed sadness about Britain’s decision to leave the EU, saying: “Until the present, the UK and Spain have both been partners in the project of European integration, which has brought considerable stability and prosperity to the region. Although this decision may sadden us, and indeed does, we fully respect it.”
“I am certain that this resolve to overcome our differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar, and I am confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort our two governments will be able to work towards arrangements that are acceptable to all involved.”
In reply the chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said King Felipe’s comments suggested he was treating the British territory as one that could be “traded from one monarch to another” like a “pawn in a chess game” and urged him to understand that Gibraltar “will remain 100% British”.
The Spanish monarch also urged the UK to reach an agreement as soon as possible about what rights will be retained after Brexit by Spaniards living in the UK, and Britons in Spain.
“These citizens have a legitimate expectation of decent and stable living conditions for themselves and for their families,” he said. “I therefore urge our two governments to continue working to ensure that the agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU provides sufficient assurance and certainty.”