British tourists travelling to continental Europe may need to pay £52 for a visa in a few weeks after Spanish demands over the status of Gibraltar again disrupted Brussels’ preparations for Brexit.
Agreement on legislation exempting UK nationals from requiring the travel permit is mired in a dispute over whether the British overseas territory should be described as a “colony” in the EU’s statute book.
Spain has insisted, with the reluctant support of the other 26-member states, that a footnote containing the contentious description of the disputed territory is added to the legislation.
But on Wednesday morning the European parliament rejected the language proposed by the council of the European Union, the body that represents the member states.
It is the third time the member states’ proposal has been sent back by MEPs and casts doubt over whether the legislation can be salvaged in the next few weeks.
Petr Ježek, a Czech MEP, said Spain was “playing with fire” with just weeks to go before the UK leaves the EU.
“The negotiation is stuck,” he said. “Brexit will hurt immensely, and we should do everything possible to soften the impact rather than create further problems for half a billion people. If there is no agreement, and no visa exemption for the UK, the British government may adopt a similar approach – and that would be a disaster.”
Ježek said the European parliament’s position had been adopted unanimously and that MEPs could not accept “colonial language which has no place in the world”.
The parliament is suggesting the footnote could be reduced to merely stating that there is a “controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty of Gibraltar”.
But Ježek warned there did not appear to be any sign that the council was willing to compromise. “It is quite stubborn.”