Spanish minister tells UK to 'not lose temper' over Gibraltar

The British territory of Gibraltar lies on the tip of the Iberian peninsula.

Story highlights

  • EU officials suggested Gibraltar could be part of Brexit trade talks
  • Lord Howard compared Prime Minister Theresa May to Thatcher

(CNN)Spain's foreign minister has called on British politicians not to lose their temper after a Brexit-fueled dispute over a tiny outcrop of land escalated into talk of war.

Less than a week after Britain triggered the formal process of leaving the European Union, London and Madrid were at loggerheads over Gibraltar, a British-controlled rocky headland on the southern tip of Spain.
    The EU's draft negotiating document on Brexit, published on Friday, suggested that Gibraltar could only be part of any future trade deal if Spain gave its approval.
    That prompted fury in Britain: On Sunday, Lord Michael Howard, a former leader of the governing Conservative Party, even suggested that the UK might go to war over the dispute.
    Gibraltar -- a three-mile long headland with a population of 32,000 people -- is a British Overseas Territory whose residents remain fiercely loyal to Britain but whose sovereignty is claimed by Spain.
    To the surprise of Downing Street, the territorial tangle made its way into the draft Brexit negotiating position published by European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday.
    "After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom," the guidelines said.
    In an interview on Sunday, Howard to urged a strong response, drawing a parallel with the Falkland Islands in the southern Atlantic, over which Britain and Argentina went to war for 10 weeks in 1982 under the government of Margaret Thatcher.
    "I do think it is a remarkable coincidence that 35 years ago this week, that another woman Prime Minister sent a taskforce half way across the world to prot