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King of Spain criticised after calling for Gibraltar arrangement that is 'acceptable to all'

2 min read

King Felipe of Spain has faced criticism after telling MPs and peers that his country and Britain must reach an "arrangement" over Gibraltar.

The monarch said he was certain that British and Spanish negotiators will reach a post-Brexit settlement on the Rock that is “acceptable to all involved”.

He made the remarks about the disputed territory in a Westminster Hall speech as part of a state visit to the UK by him and his wife, Queen Letizia.

King Felipe said hostilities between Spain and Britain had been “relegated to the past”, and that the nations were “united today by the strong bonds of personal esteem and affection”.

He added: "I am certain that this resolve to overcome our differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar. And I am confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort our two governments will be able to work out towards arrangements that are acceptable to all involved."

But the speech was immediately criticised by Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, who attacked the King’s failure to mention the role of the peninsula's government in talks.

“I think students of the subject of Gibraltar will understand that what the King of Spain was saying really harks back to a time when the governments in Madrid and London might make decisions over the heads of the people of Gibraltar,” he told Sky News.

“His reference to two governments is an unfortunate one, there are three governments in issue here.

He added: “We are celebrating in Gibraltar the 50th anniversary of the referendum when we chose freely to remain British and that is the voice that must be heard and must be respected."

Some Tory MPs had threatened to walk out if the King had mentioned Gibraltar in his speech, but such an incident was avoided.

Meanwhile, King Felipe also spoke of his regret that Britain had voted to leave the European Union last year.

“The UK exercising its sovereignty and its constitutional law has decided to leave the European union following the procedures established in the treaties,” he said. “Although this decision may sadden us and indeed it does, we fully respect it.”

He also paid tribute to victims of recent terror atrocities, highlighting in particular the murder of Jo Cox last year and the bravery of PC Keith Palmer who was killed defending the parliament gates during the Westminster Bridge attack.

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