No 10 hits out at EU's claim Gibraltar is a British colony

A Union flag flies from a pole in front of the Elizabeth Tower commonly known as Big Ben near the Houses of Parliamnet in central London

A Union flag flies from a pole in front of the Elizabeth Tower commonly known as Big Ben near the Houses of Parliamnet in central London

Britain has reacted furiously after the European Union described Gibraltar as a "colony of the British crown" in no deal legislation to pave the way for visa-free travel after Brexit.

The diplomatic row flared up at a meeting of European Union ambassadors in Brussels held after The Telegraph exclusively revealed Madrid's plans on January 24.

A footnote was attached to the visa legislation at Spain's insistence, which has contested sovereignty of The Rock for three centuries.

An EU document that calls Gibraltar as a "colony" has sparked anger in Britain as the Brexit crisis gains momentum ahead of the looming deadline on March 29.

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The text of the footnote reads: "Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown". The UK hit back calling the language "completely inappropriate".

A spokesperson for Theresa May said: "The EU's provisions for visa-free travel into and out of the Schengen area cover Gibraltar, and mean that in any scenario, British Nationals from Gibraltar will be able to travel for short stays in and out of Spain and other countries in the Schengen area".

The original version requested by Spain was to be more strongly worded, given that nation's territorial desires over Gibraltar, but that was rejected by France who also have territories so described by the United Nations, reports The Guardian.

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"Gibraltar is a full part of the United Kingdom family and has a mature and modern constitutional relationship with the UK".

British officials have begun "serious work" on the United Kingdom staying in a permanent EU customs union as a way to rescue the Brexit deal, the Independent newspaper reported on Friday.

The agreement applies whether the United Kingdom leaves the European Union with a so-called Brexit deal or not.

The Gibraltar Government said the global legal status of Gibraltar was not a matter of argument, but rather of fact.

"The use of such language, were it to materialise in the final documents, does not assist the creation a climate of understanding and trust between Gibraltar and Spain as we prepare to leave the European Union".

In a 2002 referendum on whether Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar, 99 percent of voters said no.

A statement issued by the Council of the EU said: "Ambassadors mandated the Council Presidency to start negotiations with the European Parliament on this legislative proposal".

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