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Spain, Gibraltar in increasingly strident row

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A row between Madrid and Gibraltar stepped up a notch on Thursday as the overseas British territory furiously rejected claims by Spain's foreign minister that he would hoist his country's flag on the Rock.

[MADRID] A row between Madrid and Gibraltar stepped up a notch on Thursday as the overseas British territory furiously rejected claims by Spain's foreign minister that he would hoist his country's flag on the Rock.

The tiny rocky outcrop on Spain's southern tip has long been the subject of an acrimonious sovereignty row between London and Madrid, which wants Gibraltar back after it was ceded to Britain in 1713.

Since Britain's shock June vote to leave the European Union, Madrid has upped its rhetoric, arguing that Gibraltar should come back under the Spanish fold - at least partially - to continue enjoying much-needed EU benefits.

On Tuesday at the United Nations, Spain put forward a proposal for joint sovereignty with Britain of the Rock - an offer angrily rejected by Gibraltar chief Fabian Picardo.

"It is simple: 'no way, Jose!'. You will never get your hands on our Rock. Never," he told a UN committee.

Then on Wednesday evening, Spain's outspoken Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo fanned the flames.

"The hands, no, I will hoist the flag. And way before Picardo thinks," he told Spanish television.

Furious, Mr Picardo called a press conference back in Gibraltar.

"Neither in four years or in 4,000 or any other longer time, the Spanish flag will never fly over Gibraltar," he said, according to a statement.

"It's 'No way, Jose', so get used to it!"

Gibraltar's flourishing economy, which is based on the financial services sector, tourism and online gaming, depends in large part on its access to the EU's single market.

Spain, an EU member, argues that with joint sovereignty, the Rock would be able to remain British and in the European Union at the same time.

Under the plan, it says, Gibraltarians would be able to keep their British nationality, and would also be able to gain Spanish citizenship.

The idea of joint sovereignty is not new, and such a proposal was etched out between Britain and Spain in 2001 and 2002. But it was binned after Gibraltarians rejected it in a November 2002 referendum.

AFP