04:23 GMT26 November 2020
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    Spain ceded Gibraltar to the United Kingdom in the 18th century, but Madrid continues to lay claims to it. In 1967 and 2002, local residents rejected the idea of joining Spain in referendums.

    Spain has cleared the way for Gibraltar to be declared a "colony" for the first time in international law, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais. 

    The European Parliament's Commission of Freedoms, Justice and Interior approved on Wednesday exemptions on visa regulations, where the Spanish government has introduced a footnote that defines Gibraltar as a "colony of the British Crown".

    READ MORE: UK, Spain Sign Deal to Tackle Tax Evasion in Gibraltar — Madrid

    It reads: “There is controversy between Spain and the UK concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached in light of the relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

    The motion is pending following a vote in the plenary session of the European Parliament and ratification by the EU.

    The controversial new law gained 38 MEPs votes for the motion, eight against and three abstained. Eurosceptics tried to calm a row which broke out with Claude Moraes, a British speaker who was removed from his post on Monday for refusing to refer to Gibraltar a "colony".

    The European Council later ratified the motion following Mr. Moraes's dismissal.

    Socialist and Popular Party MEPs have pushed for the regulations despite criticisms from parts of the chamber, who blamed Madrid for Mr. Moraes's dismissal.

    "Here we are talking about the next elections in Spain," James Carver, MEP from the Eurosceptic party UKIP said.

    "It is a shame that they have allowed the Spanish government to hijack this report," Julia Reid, Mr. Carver's UKIP colleague said.

    Referring to Gibraltar as a "colony" has long been a contentious issue between London and Madrid, with the latter promoting Gibraltar's independence among the remaining 27 member-states.

    Bulgarian socialist Sérgei Stánishev will replace Mr. Moraes, with negotiations continuing unabated following the impasse. But not everyone was enthusiastic about the new regulation.

    "I am going to vote in favour of the report, but the way the [European Council] has managed it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth," Dutch Liberal Sophie in 't Veld said in protest.

    READ MORE: 'Ancient Conflicts' Over Gibraltar Ahead of Brexit May Harm Spain – Report

    Concerns over Gibraltar began to grow as the 29 March Brexit deadline approached, with the regulation becoming increasingly important for UK citizens entering Gibraltar on short stays without a visa in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with reciprocal measures taken by EU citizens entering the UK.

    The remaining 27 EU states have reaffirmed their commitment to nominating Gibraltar as a colony, with bipartisan support from Socialist and Popular Party amid condemnation from parts of the House.

    diplomatic row, colony, visa, no-deal scenario, no-deal Brexit, Brexit, agreement, Brexit, Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), Popular Party, Claude Moraes, Gibraltar, Madrid, European Union, London, United Kingdom
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