“I invite the UK, on this first occasion at the UN after Brexit, to end the colonial anachronism of Gibraltar with an agreed solution between both countries to restore the territorial integrity of Spain and bring benefits to the people of Gibraltar and the Spanish area of Campo de Gibraltar.” These were the words of His Majesty King Felipe of Spain during his speech at the United Nations in September last year.
The King of Spain’s demands in September were met with strong criticism from many Britons. The British overseas territory was quick to fire back. A spokesperson for the territory said in the Gibraltar Chronicle: “This is not 1704 when Britain conquered Gibraltar, or 1713 when Spain ceded it by treaty forever. This is 2016, when what matters most is the right of people, however small, to determine their own future.
“It is regrettable that the mentality in official circles in Spain remains stuck in the 18th century,” the spokesman said in September.
Representatives from the British government said the day after King Felipe’s speech: “Madrid has still not come to terms with having lost Gibraltar over 300 years ago, and it’s time they realised that they are never going to get it back.”
In Spain, however, the King’s speech was received with great enthusiasm. Spain’s acting Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, told the radio channel Onda Cero: “It’s a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignty – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock – is much closer than before,” the minister said.
Although this happened several months ago, this marks a conflict that will escalate as a result of Britain’s decision to exit out of the European Union. The fact that a sitting monarch marks himself in such a political way and as powerfully as the King Felipe did, indicate that this is a problem that the Spanish government will search for a solution that runs in Spain’s favour. At a time when much is changing in the world, this may result in the relationship between the two kingdoms being worse than ever before.
King Juan Carlos visited the UK on an official state visit in 1986, while the last time Queen Elizabeth travelled to Spain on a official state visit was in October 1988.
King Felipe’s speech is below: