Despite sabre rattling from some, Brits are actually quite evenly split on whether to give Spain more of a say over The Rock in return for better trading terms
Last weekend’s news was dominated by sabre rattling aimed at Spain over the future of Gibraltar, following revelations that the EU’s draft negotiating document proposed an effective veto for Spain over the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal applying to Gibraltar.
It was seen by some as an attempt by Spain to gain leverage over the Brexit negotiations and try to gain more influence over the territory. The spat culminated with former Tory leader Michael Howard drawing allusions to Mrs Thatcher’s military retaking of the Falkland Islands.
But for all the bellicose bluster, in targeting Gibraltar Spain seems to have hit upon a potentially effective tactic.
A new YouGov survey shows that one in three Brits would be willing to cede at least some sovereignty over Gibraltar to Spain in order to get a “much better” Brexit deal for the UK. A slightly higher proportion (37%) would not countenance such a move, whilst 30% don’t know.
The Brits most staunchly opposed to swapping sovereignty for better trade terms were UKIP voters (56%), the over-60s (54%), Conservative voters (49%) and Leave voters (48%).
By contrast, SNP voters (44%), Remain voters (41%), and under-25s (41%) were the most willing to consider giving Spain more of a say over The Rock in order to get a better Brexit deal.
Who should have sovereignty over Gibraltar in the first place?
Of course, Gibraltar’s status as a British territory is controversial for some (not least the Spanish). The fact that some people would consider ceding sovereignty could be down to the fact that they think Spain should have more control over Gibraltar in the first place.
In order to test how far this is the case, YouGov also asked people how and by whom they thought the territory should be governed. The status quo option is the overwhelming favourite, with 58% of Brits say that they want Gibraltar to remain a self-governing British territory.
However, more than one in five (22%) of those who want to see Gibraltar remain a self-governing British territory would be willing to allow Spain to have greater influence for the sake of an improved Brexit deal offer from the EU.
Overall, around a fifth (19%) of Brits want Spain to have more sovereignty over Gibraltar than it does currently. Meanwhile, 8% of want Gibraltar to be a self-governing joint-British and Spanish territory, 5% want it to be a self-governing Spanish territory and 6% want to see it become Spanish again.
Unsurprisingly, for each of these groups the overwhelming majority – between 69% and 77% – said they would be willing to pass sovereignty of Gibraltar over to Spain for a better trade deal.