Acting Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has said he hopes Britain stays in the EU but is unhappy with David Cameron’s brief campaign stop in Gibraltar.
Speaking on Spanish National Radio, Mr Rajoy said his government “doesn’t like the idea that Mr Cameron should go to Gibraltar” but insisted that what is being debated is whether Britain stays in the EU, “as I hope it does”.
Mr Cameron is making a two-hour visit to Gibraltar on Thursday to seek votes to keep Britain in the EU in the June 23 referendum.
Spanish media said it is the first visit to Gibraltar by a British prime minister in nearly 50 years.
Spain ceded Gibraltar’s sovereignty to Britain in a 1713 treaty but has persistently sought its return ever since.
In the past, it has opposed visits by British royal family members to the territory.
Gibraltar’s 30,000 inhabitants are believed to be overwhelmingly on the Remain side in the EU debate.
They fear their access to the single European market could be blocked by a hostile Spanish government if Britain exits.
Mr Rajoy said Spain has always viewed Gibraltar as Spanish regardless of the referendum, adding that the campaign should be carried out in Britain, not Gibraltar.
He heads the conservative Popular Party and is running Spain’s caretaker government following inconclusive elections in December.
Spaniards are to vote in a repeat election on June 26.