As Spain and the United Kingdom debate the status of Gibraltar in the event the UK leaves the European Union, the Moroccan diplomacy and media seem clueless to the impact and the potential of such negotiations offer Rabat to win both the English and Spanish support in the Western Sahara conflict and open deliberations over the future of Ceuta and Melilla.
Washington D.C. – Pedro Sanchez attempted on several occasions to use Brexit negations to revive Spanish calls for shared sovereignty over Gibraltar once the UK has left the EU. In fact, his government threatened to veto a Brexit deal over the status of the Rock.
As Spain pushes its agenda in Brussels, the Moroccans should be discussing with the British and the Europeans the future of the Moroccan cities of Ceuta and Melilla occupied by Spain.
Additionally, Rabat should remind London of its promise not to let Spain control both sides of the Mediterranean and warn the European Union about applying double standards in applying the concept of self-determination in the Western Sahara versus Gibraltar.
Morocco may not be involved in the Brexit negotiations, but any changes to the status of Gibraltar should be of a major concern to its diplomats. If the Spanish positions effectively become EU policy, then Spain would have scored a major victory.
A shared sovereignty over Gibraltar must open the door to a similar deal between Morocco and Spain over the two enclaves. Some may argue that there are no apparent relations between the two cases, but the fact that Spain has insisted that Gibraltar is not part of Great Britain and as such is not covered by any agreements, is the same as Morocco asserting sovereignty over Ceuta, Melilla and the Western Sahara.
Withstanding that Gibraltar residents rejected shared sovereignty with Spain in a referendum in 2002, the UK territory should leave the EU in case Brexit is finalized. Thus a change of legal substance to this status favoring a Spanish control should trigger a start of dialogue over the fate of the occupied cities in Norther Morocco.
Moreover, Moroccans must remind Pedro Sanchez that Spain that insists on a referendum for self-determination in the disputed Western Sahara cannot ignore Gibraltar’s’ Constitution that offers the locals a large degree of self-rule short of full autonomy. Spanish politicians must choose between supporting self-determination or political negotiations to resolve these types of conflicts.
Rabat should not be fooled by Pedro Sanchez charm offensive. Spain’s prime minister visited Morocco two weeks ago bringing promise of full cooperation on several fronts but with no firm political backing for Rabat’s positions in the Western Share or a promise to open an honest dialogue for the decolonization of the two enclaves.
Even if a Brexit agreement passes, the status of Gibraltar would remain fluid. Therefore, Moroccan diplomats and civil society must remain alert.
Spanish goodwill toward Morocco must be translated into concrete backing of Rabat’s positions on strategic topics. If Mr. Sanchez insists in having a crucial say in Gibraltar’s future despite of the local population’s desire to stay within the UK, then Madrid should come out and support Rabat’s similar position in the Western Sahara.