British tourists travelling to continental Europe may need to pay £52 for a visa post-Brexit after a row erupted with Spain over the status of Gibraltar.
Agreement on exempting British tourists for forking out for the permit – previously agreed – has been muddied by a row over whether the Rock should be described as a ‘colony’ in the EU’s statute book.
Spain, which still officially claims the territory, has insisted that a footnote containing the controversial description is added to the legislation.
But this morning the European Parliament rejected the language proposed by the European Council, the body that represents member states.
It is the third time it has rejected by MEPs and casts doubt over whether the legislation can be rescued in time for the UK’s official leaving date, March 29.
The legislation, if passed, would put the UK on a visa exemption list.
It would mean that until 2021 there would be no need for a visa even if the UK left the EU without a deal. After that, Brits would have to pay £7 for three years visa-free travel under a new European travel information and authorisation system similar to the ESTA in the USA.
But if both the Gibraltar row is not solved and the UK crashes out without a deal on 29 March, British nationals seeking to stay in an EU country for less than 90 days would be required to pay €60 (£52) for a Schengen visa that can take two weeks to be sorted.
Labour MP Virendra Sharma, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: ‘Gone are the days of British people being able to jet off to Europe without delay or needing to pay.
‘Brexit means extra layers of visa bureaucracy that we will leave British holidaymakers worse off.
‘If only the Brexiters had grounded their promises in facts back in 2016, we wouldn’t be in this terrible mess.’
Petr Ježek, a Czech MEP, said Spain was ‘playing with fire’ so close to what is officially Brexit day.
‘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 would not accept ‘colonial language which has no place in the world’.
The Brussels parliament has suggested alternative wording, saying it could just factually state that there is a ‘controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty of Gibraltar’.