Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union (96%), with only 823 votes for Leave. The UK Europe Minister, David Lidington, told ITV Sunday that: "The United Kingdom will continue to stand beside Gibraltar", echoing similar comments by the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond last week.
@stardust193 they voted 85% to stay in the EU,maybe let them have what they want— 1manwenttomow (@jacknibbler) June 26, 2016
Gibraltar finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place, whereby its citizens must now weigh up their vehement sense of Britishness with an overwhelming desire to remain part of Europe. Neighboring Spain has argued for joint sovereignty over Gibraltar ever since its capture in 1704, but its residents are hugely opposed. A joint sovereignty proposal was floated by the UK Government in 2002, and was decisively rejected by 99% of voters, a sentiment which remains just as strong 14 years on.
Despite that majority opposition amongst Gibraltarians, Spain's acting foreign minister Jose Manuel García-Margallo — in an interview with Onda Cero Radio — said:
"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."
Brian Reyes — Editor of the Gibraltar Chronicle — told Sputnik that there was a mood of confusion following the result of last week's referendum:
"When the result came through on Friday, the initial reaction was pretty much shock and disbelief. Even though we all knew it was possible, I don't think people here were expecting it, and it caught everybody by surprise. Since then, I think there's a sense of resilience here, we are where we are, so we've got to deal with it and find the best way forward," Reyes told Sputnik.
Spare a thought for Gibraltar. pic.twitter.com/GrfnA1Xiy8— Raymond Buchanan (@BuchananPost) June 26, 2016
Reyes told Sputnik that he saw no demand for any sort of shared sovereignty deal with Spain, and that Gibraltarians were emphatically opposed to any such proposals:
"It's obviously important for Gibraltar and for Britain to keep on saying that and to stand by that commitment… That they won't enter into any deal that changes the sovereignty, or even discuss the sovereignty against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar.
"The sentiment here is British, and if possible [to stay] within the EU, and I think that's reflected in the vote."
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory, so its ability to stay in the EU whilst remaining British looks difficult to say the least. Added to that, given the overwhelming sense of British identity there, any sort of move towards independence — such as that being proposed in Scotland for example — would involve an unfeasible shift in public opinion. Even still, Brian Reyes claimed it was too early to be considering those sorts of scenarios:
"We're very much trying to keep up with all the events that are happening in the UK — it's moving so fast, and we're trying to work out what the different permutations are and what it could mean here. But I think it's too soon to discuss any possibilities in terms of what it might mean in practice."
The UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum last week by a margin of 1.9%. Gibraltar's population of 32,000 voted to remain by 96% on an 84% turnout.