Being Gibraltar is a mighty tough act: Barely 2½ times the area of New York’s Central Park, the Rock has, for much of the past three centuries, faced hostility on its land border with Spain, which ceded it to Britain in 1713. The cession was made in perpetuity—but that has never stopped Spain from treating Gibraltar as a “disputed territory” and trying to wrench it back. The border reopened fully only in 1985, a decade after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco; but even democratic Spain has imposed border closures from time to time as a way to teach Gibraltar who’s boss.
Gibraltar’s latest problems, however, have been of British—not Spanish—making. The European Union was a boon to Gibraltar, as Madrid was required to treat its border as one between two EU member states, as well as to accord to Gibraltar the full range of EU rights. But the Brexit referendum has wrecked this happy situation. In spite of voting to remain in the EU by a very Gibraltarian 96%, the Rock is now bound by the U.K.’s vote to leave. Bowing ominously to Spanish pressure, the EU has stated—in its guidelines for Brexit negotiations—that no new deal with the U.K. would apply to Gibraltar without Spain’s assent.
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