Theresa May has used her first meeting with European Council president Donald Tusk since triggering Article 50 to warn EU leaders that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is not up for negotiation in Brexit talks.
Following a meeting with Mr Tusk in Downing Street, the Prime Minister has insisted there could be no change to the status of the Rock without the consent of its people.
The talks marked the first time the pair have met in person since Mrs May wrote to the Council to begin the formal two-year withdrawal process on March 29.
Mr Tusk’s response to the letter caused anger after he suggested that Spain – which claims sovereignty of Gibraltar – should be able to veto its inclusion in any future trade deal between the EU and Britain.
Following the meeting, No 10 said the Prime Minister had reiterated her desire to secure a “deep and special partnership” with the remaining 27 member states.
“She said the UK looked forward to formally beginning negotiations once the 27 Member States agreed guidelines,” a spokesman said.
“Both leaders agreed that the tone of discussions had been positive on both sides, and agreed that they would seek to remain in close touch as the negotiations progressed.”
But the spokesman went on to say that “on the subject of Gibraltar” Mrs May stressed that the UK’s position “had not changed”.
“The PM also made clear [that] the UK would seek the best possible deal for Gibraltar as the UK exits the EU and there would be no negotiation on the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the consent of its people,” they said.
EU sources said it had been a “good and friendly” meeting in which they both recognised the need to “lower tensions” when difficulties arose over sensitive issues such as Gibraltar.
“They agreed to stay in regular contact throughout the Brexit process to keep a constructive approach and seek to lower tensions that may arise, also when talks on some issues like Gibraltar inevitably will become difficult,” one source said.