East Midlands MEP Rupert Matthews has today condemned a vote in the European Parliament calling for a "solution" to the sovereignty of Gibraltar. The move, which was instigated by Spain and supported by other member states in the European Council.
A footnote was added at a late stage to a report exempting UK citizens from the need to obtain visas when travelling into the Schengen Area in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It states that "Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown" and that "there is a controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached."
The Parliament initially opposed the addition and the report's lead MEP, or rapporteur, UK Labour MEP Claude Moraes, proposed several compromise solutions. All were rejected by the Council and earlier this week Mr Moraes was stripped of the rapporteurship by fellow MEPs amidst claims his nationality made it impossible for him to be impartial. Conservatives strongly opposed his removal.
Speaking after the report was approved by MEPs today, Mr Matthews said: "This move is utterly shameful and undermines the EU's standing as a union that claims to champion democracy, self-determination and human rights around the world. The Spanish Government has been allowed to hijack European legislation for its own ends as it heads into a difficult domestic election.
"It is vitally important that we protect the right of UK and EU citizens to continue travelling visa-free in the event of a no deal Brexit. But we could not vote for this report and accept a claim on part of our territory. The people of both Britain and Gibraltar would have expected nothing less of us.
He concluded: "Gibraltar's sovereignty is not negotiable."