José Manuel García Margallo said Gibraltar should be part of a Spanish free trade zone
José Manuel García Margallo called for Spain to create the special free trade zone with Algeciras, the Spanish town on the other side of the Bay of Gibraltar, and Ceuta, the Spanish enclave opposite Gibraltar which shares a border with Tangier.
The zone should not include La Linea de la Concepcion, the Spanish town which shares a border with Gibraltar and supplies most of the Rock’s fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, Mr Margallo said today.
The MP, who has always been a strong critic of Gibraltar, said there would be “an empty chair” for the British Overseas Territory to join the zone.
It would be a macro-project that would also contemplate a urban revolution in the area
José Manuel García Margallo
He said the zone would create a direct competitor Rotterdam in Netherlands, one of Europe’s most important ports.
Speaking to Spanish TV programme, Hoy por Hoy, he said: “It would be a macro-project that would also contemplate a urban revolution in the area."
The zone would include Ceuta, Algeciras and Gibraltar, but not La Linea
However, Mr Margallo did not address the fact by excluding La Linea from the zone, thousands of Spaniards working over the border in Gibraltar could be out of work.
Many of the more than 60,000 residents of La Linea work in Gibraltar, commuting between the two every day.
On the other hand, some Gibraltarians have jobs in Spain, while others travel to La Linea for shopping or a night out.
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
Gibraltar has become a political hot potato since Theresa May triggered Article 50 to start two years of negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union.
Just days after the European Union handed Spain a veto over any Brexit deal to do with the British Overseas Territory, which has been part of the UK since 1713.
Kaiane Lopez, Mayor of Gibralter in pictures
Wed, April 5, 2017
Crowned Miss World 2009 in Johannesburg and now she is Gibraltar's youngest-ever mayor
1 of 6
On Monday, Spaniards living in La Linea said they wanted to “stay British” as they attacked their own politicians for potentially destroying their livelihoods – something Mr Margallo’s suggestion would do.
Jesus Moya, 48, from San Roque, said: “I want Gibraltar to stay British. Spain’s government isn’t worthy of the name and should start by looking after its own huge problems.”
Spain has gained a veto on Brexit if it has anything to do with Gibraltar
La Linea is just over the border from Gibraltar
Juan Franco, mayor of La Linea, said: “Our economic dependency on Gibraltar is practically total.”
Mr Franco remembers the border being closed by his namesake, the Spanish dictator, in 1969, and said: “That caused deep economic depression and poverty. That time is still remembered today as a trauma.”
Mr Margallo has remained a controversial figure throughout his political career, leading Spanish negotiations the day after sanctions against Iran were lifted last January to make an agreement with the Iranian government over the construction of an Iranian-owned oil refinery at the Gibraltar strait.
In 2015 he ordered the closure of the Spanish Government’s non-profit cultural centre in Gibraltar, stating there was no need for Spanish classes on the Rock because “everyone speaks Spanish except for the apes”.
In June last year he said Spain demanded control of Gibraltar the “very next day” following the Brexit vote.