British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk have met in London where they agreed to look for ways to ease tensions as Britain exits the European Union.
After their first in person talks since May triggered the formal Brexit process last week (March 29), both sides said they want to maintain good relations.
The two-hour meeting at May’s Downing Street office early Thursday afternoon gave May and Tusk the chance to discuss how Brexit negotiations will proceed.
A Downing Street spokesman said May told Tusk the UK will not negotiate away Gibraltar’s sovereignty as part of Brexit talks.
An EU source said they would "seek to lower tensions that may arise" after this week's row about Gibraltar.
“The prime minister reiterated the UK’s desire to ensure a deep and special partnership with the EU following its exit, and noted the constructive approach set out by the Council in its draft guidelines published last week,” May’s office said.
“Both leaders agreed that the tone of discussions had been positive on both sides, and agreed that they would seek to remain in close touch as the negotiations progressed.”
London and Madrid have had a long and bitter dispute over the sovereignty of Gibraltar, which has been under Britain’s rule since 1713.
Tensions have flared since the publications of draft negotiating guidelines from the EU that propose giving Spain a veto over any deal involving Gibraltar’s future relationship with the bloc.
The tension escalated on Tuesday when a Royal Navy unit from the Gibraltar squadron ordered a Spanish warship out of the peninsula’s disputed territorial waters.
For centuries, Spain has been demanding Gibraltar back and does not recognize the peninsula as sovereign British overseas territory.
The EU has stressed that Spain must have a direct say in the territory’s future in upcoming Brexit negotiations.
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.
Among the countries that make up Britain, England and Wales voted to leave the EU, while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the bloc.