Bitter sovereignty battle that’s lasted 300 years
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory whose 30,000 inhabitants are British citizens allowed to run their own affairs under a chief minister. Spain also claims sovereignty.
The peninsula is famous for its huge limestone Rock, which is riddled with military tunnels, as well as its population of barbary macaques – the only wild monkey population in Europe.
The status of Gibraltar has plagued relations between Spain and the UK since it was taken by an Anglo-Dutch fleet in 1704 during the war of the Spanish Succession.
The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht gave Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity. But it states that if Britain relinquishes the colony it will be ceded to Spain. Gibraltar became a British colony in 1830.
Despite the treaty, Spanish attacks became a common occurrence, and in 1779 a great siege by Spanish and French forces began. The Rock’s tunnels date from this time. When the British refused to surrender, a truce was struck in 1783.
Gibraltar’s position at the mouth of the Mediterranean made it a vital strategic stronghold in the Second World War.
In 1967, over 99 per cent of Gibraltarians voted to remain under British sovereignty. In response, General Franco closed the border in 1969 to try to isolate the territory.
Despite Franco’s death in 1975, the blockade was not fully lifted until 1985. Since then Spain has continued to face accusations of deliberately trying to make travellers’ lives a misery with stringent checks on vehicles passing through the frontier. There have also been ongoing arguments over British jets heading to Gibraltar being able to use Spanish airspace.
In 2002, nearly 99 per cent voted against Spain sharing sovereignty with the UK.