Located at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, Gibraltar was a part of the European Union before Brexit. With 95 percent of its population having voted to stay part of the bloc, its relations with London have been turbulent since the 2016 referendum. As encounters at the negotiating table have been anything but easy, some good news — although 180 years late — is thought to be welcome at the Rock.
Gibraltar’s constitutional and historical link to the United Kingdom dates back to 1713, when it was ceded to Britain under a peace treaty signed following the War of the Spanish Succession.
A Jubilee competition saw 39 places apply to become cities and eight of them, including Doncaster, Bangor, and Dunfermline, were ultimately granted the status.
While this brings little in the way of material benefits, it is seen as a source of pride for locals and can often provide a boost to communities by putting them on the map.
The Government said Gibraltar had been omitted from official lists after being originally given the title by Queen Victoria, adding it is not clear how this happened.
An updated record of the 81 places named as cities has now been published.
Gibraltar is one of only five outside the UK to be recognised. Hamilton in Bermuda, Jamestown in Saint Helena, and Douglas on the Isle of Man were already on the list, while Stanley in the Falklands Islands was among those named for the Jubilee this year.
Cabinet Office Minister Kit Malthouse said: “The cities in this list are incredibly rich with history and culture, and the local people of those areas are rightly very proud to see their city’s significance put to paper.
“I’m hopeful people based in these places, particularly the new cities, can reap the benefits of their home’s increased global standing and that it will attract more inward investment for local businesses.”
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But despite the recognition, Gibraltar and the UK continue to be at odds, with unresolved Brexit issues at the heart of their tensions.
Since the referendum, Spain’s acting Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, has repeatedly renewed calls for joint Spanish–British control of the peninsula.
In his annual address to the UN Decolonisation Committee in June, the Spanish ambassador, Agustín Santos, reiterated that only negotiations between Madrid and London can overcome Gibraltar’s “colonial” status.
Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabián Picardo, insisted “the Gibraltarian people” would not accept any solution proposed in their name and without their participation, as they are frustrated over their future being determined by two countries other than themselves.
While the UK agreed with Spain on December 31, 2020 that Gibraltar would serve as the basis of a later agreement between the countries, Mr Santos said: “Nothing in that understanding implies a modification of Spain’s legal position with regard to sovereignty and jurisdiction in relation to Gibraltar.”
The ambassador added that other than the question of sovereignty, Spain is open to “agreements with the United Kingdom that allow for regional cooperation schemes for the direct benefit of the inhabitants on both sides of the fence under the idea of shared prosperity”.