The British government has expressed anger after the EU offered tentative support for Spain’s territorial claim over the land on which Gibraltar airport is built.
Direct flights between the UK and EU destinations will continue to operate for nine months in the event of a no-deal Brexit under contingency plans agreed by Brussels.
Gibraltar airport, however, is not included in the scope of the plans, and EU legislation on the issue includes reference to Spain’s claim to land on which it is built.
Gibraltar’s territory includes an 800m isthmus with mainland Spain, on which two housing estates and the airport are located, but Madrid does not acknowledge Britain’s sovereignty over the strip.
The Treaty of Utrecht, under which Spain ceded Gibraltar to the UK, does not refer to British sovereignty beyond the fortified perimeter of the town as it was in 1713. The UK says it has rights through continuous use of the land.
The EU’s no-deal legislation notes that the regulation is “without prejudice” to the “position of the Kingdom of Spain with regard to the sovereignty over the territory in which the airport of Gibraltar is situated”, and fails to mention the UK’s rival claim.