Spain’s foreign minister said he regrets the UK’s decision to leave the EU, but suggested a Brexit would give a boost to his country’s claim over Gibraltar.

“Co-sovereignty in Gibraltar is now closer than ever,” José Manuel García Margallo told a radio station on Friday, Tobias Buck reports from Madrid.

“The Spanish flag is closer to flying on the Rock, but no-one should think that I am celebrating this situation.”

The tiny British overseas territory has long been a source of friction between London and Madrid, which claims Gibraltar as part of its own sovereign territory.

Even the notion of shared sovereignty – as suggested by Mr García Margallo on Friday – is fiercely opposed by both the UK and by Gibraltar itself.

Spanish officials have long argued that Brexit could help shift the debate on this sensitive issue, if only because join EU membership currently provides the legal base for keeping open the border between Spain and Gibraltar – the only land crossing into the territory.

Gibraltar on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favour of British EU membership in Thursday’s referendum – not least out of fear that Madrid would used Brexit to reignite its claim to the peninsula.

According to the official result, 96 per cent of the Gibraltar electorate voted in favour of Remain – the highest percentage of any voting area in the UK.

Speaking about the broader challenge facing Europe after the Brexit vote, Mr García Margallo said: “We have not measured correctly the degree of indignation in Europe.”

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