The Latest: Spain "surprised" by Britain's tone on Gibraltar

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Posted: Apr 03, 2017 5:51 AM
The Latest: Spain "surprised" by Britain's tone on Gibraltar

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Britain's impending departure from the European Union (all times local):

10:45 a.m.

Spain says it's "surprised" by the tone of comments from Britain regarding Gibraltar's fate in Brexit talks over Britain leaving the European Union, in particular war references by a former Conservative Party leader.

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said Monday that on the issue of Europe and Gibraltar, Britain's traditional reputation for calmness seems to be notably absent.

Dastis was referring to comments by Michael Howard, who said British Prime Minister Theresa May would be willing to go to war over Gibraltar in the same manner as the late premier Margaret Thatcher did against Argentina over the Falklands Islands 35 years ago.

The European Union has upset Britain by giving Spain veto power on any Brexit accords regarding Gibraltar, a British territory on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula that Spain has long wanted to reclaim.

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10:15 a.m.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says Gibraltar's status can only be changed by the territory's people and U.K. citizens, as the enclave becomes an issue in Brexit negotiations.

Johnson said Monday that Gibraltar's sovereignty "is not going to change and cannot conceivably change without the express support and consent of the people of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom."

He spoke in Luxembourg where EU foreign ministers are meeting. Britain's departure from the European Union, likely in 2019, is not on the agenda.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis told the El Pais newspaper that Madrid insists it should get a veto over any agreements regarding the strategic enclave on Spain's southern tip, as Britain prepares to leave. Spain has long sought to reclaim Gibraltar.

9 a.m.

The EU's roadmap on Brexit negotiations leaves the United Kingdom and Spain to discuss what agreements will apply to Gibraltar, a British overseas territory that Spain has wanted back since ceding it in 1713.

This could force a dialogue in which Madrid might have the upper-hand, although the Spanish government has said it will ensure an open border for European workers that are key to both Gibraltar and the neighboring area in southern Spain.

Gibraltar has a population of 32,000 and about 96 percent of residents voted to remain in the EU last year.