UK Ambassador to Spain Simon Manley told EURACTIV Spain that cross-border free movement for Gibraltar must be a priority in the Brexit negotiations.
During an interview with EFE on the same day (29 March) the UK officially notified the EU of its decision to leave the bloc, the ambassador gave assurances to British citizens residing in Spain and their Spanish counterparts in the UK.
“For the moment, nothing has changed. It is of the utmost importance that we put citizens first,” Manley said.
Asked how Brexit could impact on Gibraltar, the ambassador advocated preserving a “fluid passage” between Spain and the Rock.
“The Gibraltarian people rejected the idea of joint sovereignty but we must work to ensure a fluid passage for the thousands of people who work every day in Gibraltar,” he said.
“We want to ensure that Gibraltar’s economy and society continue to flourish,” Manley added.
The British diplomat also said that London wants “a strong and special agreement with the EU as soon as possible”, which has “the least impact on businesses and trade”.
He pointed out that trade between the UK and Spain is “worth more than €46 billion every year” and that 700 British companies have so far invested in the Iberian country.
Manley also said that 400 Spanish companies have done the same in the UK. “We have to work to ensure that we have trade that is as free as possible,” he added.
The ambassador also said that “there is no turning back” from Brexit now that Prime Minister Theresa May has notified the European institutions of the country’s intention to leave the bloc, by triggering the infamous Article 50 and kicking off two years of negotiations.
He echoed the sentiments of so many other British politicians by adding that “the British people voted to leave the EU, not Europe”.
“The world needs European values of freedom, democracy and human rights. They are more important today than ever. We want to secure a good agreement with our European friends and allies and stand shoulder to shoulder for years to come.”
Regarding the future of the EU without the UK and the idea of a ‘domino effect’ as a result of Brexit, Manley said “we want the EU to be a success. We share the same European, liberal and democratic values. We want the EU to be strong and successful.”