The decision supports the Spanish position on Gibraltar and grants Britons the right to enter the European Union without visas after Brexit.
The European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties accepted on Wednesday an agreement sealed with the Council of the European Union (EU) for the exemption of visas for British citizens if a no-deal Brexit happens on April 12, which is a parliamentary decision that includes a 'footnote' considering Gibraltar as "a colony of the British crown."
“Today’s vote is an important step for guaranteeing the right to visa-free travel for European and British citizens after Brexit, especially in the case of no deal,” Sergei Stanishev, a MEP from Bulgaria, said, adding that “it is no secret that the negotiations were blocked over the Gibraltar footnote, but in the end it was Parliament who demonstrated responsibility and put citizens’ interests first.”
Official references to Gibraltar as a colony has a diplomatic and political value for Spain. The 2017 draft guidelines to the United Kingdom's exit specified that after Brexit, no agreement between the E.U. and the U.K. could be applied to Gibraltar without a previous agreement between the British and Spainish governments.
In Nov. 2018, however, Spain requested further guarantees to assure that its Crown would have "the last word" in any future agreement related to the U.K.-occupied territory. Describing Gibraltar as a "colony" reinforces the idea that Spain will have to approve any pact related to such territory.
Prior to the EU Civil Liberties Committee's decision, a 2006 judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) also refered to Gibraltar as a British colony.
Nevertheless, in a reaction to today's decision, a British government spokesman said that calling Gibraltar a colony is "completely inappropriate," as reported by EFE.
The United Nations included Gibraltar in the list of "territories pending decolonization" in 1963 and has recommended since 1965 that the sovereignty dispute must be solved through bilateral negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain.
Although it belonged to the Castile Crown from the second half of the fifteenth century, Gibraltar was occupied by British troops during the Spanish Succession War in 1704. The British Crown turned this territory into its colony in 1713 as a result of the application of the Peace of Utrecht, a series of treaties which paved the way to the Britain maritime, commercial and financial supremacy.