Sun Apr 2, 2017 4:30AM
The European Union flag (left), the flag of the United Kingdom (middle), and Gibraltar flag  (File Photo)
The European Union flag (left), the flag of the United Kingdom (middle), and Gibraltar flag (File Photo)

Britain has emphasized that the overseas Gibraltar region is "not for sale," a day after the European Union stressed that Spain must have a direct say in the territory’s future in upcoming Brexit negotiations.

“Gibraltar is not for sale. Gibraltar cannot be traded. Gibraltar will not be bargained away,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

He insisted that the situation in Gibraltar could not be changed without the express consent of the UK and the people of the territory.

Johnson praised Gibraltar’s “vibrant business center” and said its harbor remains a “key NATO asset” because it can host nuclear submarines.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 31, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

“The UK government can be counted on to stick up for those interests - for instance in insurance and maritime services - which create jobs not just in Gibraltar but in the wider region of southern Spain,” he added.

Johnson insisted that the UK will remain “implacable and rock-like in its support for Gibraltar.”

On Friday, President of the European Council Donald Tusk said no agreement between the EU and the UK may apply to the territory without an agreement between Britain and Spain.

In essence, he offered Madrid a special share of power over Gibraltar's fate. Spain has welcomed the decision. Gibraltar's government has, however, slammed the decision as unacceptable.

The rocky enclave was seized from Spain during a war in 1704 and was handed to Britain in 1713 under a multi-national treaty.

The iconic ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ in the British Overseas Territory on the southern coast of Spain. (File photo)

Madrid and London have been engaged in a bitter sovereignty row over Gibraltar for years. 

During World War II, Gibraltar was an important base for the Royal Navy.

Read more:

The United Kingdom held a referendum last June in which Britons voted by a 52-48 percent margin to leave the EU, the first member state ever to do so. However, 97 percent of Gibraltar citizens voted Remain.

On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered the formal, two-year process of withdrawing Britain from the EU.