The Latest: Gibraltar reluctantly prepares to lower EU flag


LONDON (AP) – The Latest on Britain’s departure from the European Union:

2:35 p.m.

The head of Gibraltar’s government says the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union “will forever live in history as a very sad day.”

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabien Picardo said the speck of British territory on Spain’s southern tip is departing the EU on Friday night “with a heavy heart, with sadness.”

In the U.K.’s 2016 Brexit referendum, 96% of voters in Gibraltar supported remaining in the EU.

Gibraltar’s economy relies heavily on connections to the EU and Spain. About 15,000 people live in Spain and work in Gibraltar, most of them EU nationals. They make up about half of Gibraltar’s labor force.

A lot is also at stake for Spain, which exported 1.5 billion euros of goods to Gibraltar in 2018. Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 but Spain still claims sovereignty over it.

More than two dozen international online gambling companies operate out of Gibraltar, lured by its low taxes and unimpeded access to the EU’s single market. The gambling companies account for around 25% of Gibraltar’s economy.

Picardo plans to attend a brief midnight ceremony on the border with Spain, when the EU flag will be lowered and the British Commonwealth flag raised.

He said that during the ceremony the EU’s anthem — Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” will be played.


2:15 p.m.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he is “heartbroken” about Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union and wants to reassure European citizens living in the British capital they are valued friends and family members.

“I’m of the generation who has seen our European neighbors as friends and allies,” Khan told The Associated Press hours before Brexit becomes official Friday night.

“Previous generations looked upon them with suspicion,” the mayor said. “And the key thing I’m determined to make sure happens is, going forward, we will carry on as a city being open-minded, out-looking, pluralistic and welcoming to our EU friends.”

Khan has long argued that Britain would be better off remaining inside the EU. He said Friday he was proud that Londoners voted overwhelmingly in the 2016 Brexit referendum to keep the U.K. as an EU member.

Khan also rebuffed speculation that London would work to become a lightly regulated tax haven in the post-Brexit era.


2:00 p.m.

The European Union’s parliament will have fewer lawmakers after the United Kingdom’s departure from the bloc, 705 compared to 751.

The European Parliament says that 27 of the U.K.’s 73 seats have been redistributed among remaining member nations. The other 46 seats are being set aside in case new countries are admitted into the EU.

The United Kingdom is officially leaving the bloc late Friday, ending a 47-year commitment to EU institutions.

The European Parliament said the redistribution of seats takes into account the size of the population in each of the 27 remaining nations, “as well as the need for a minimum level of representation for European citizens in the smaller ones.”‘

Demonstrators lower a banner reading “Here to Stay, Here to Fight, Migrants In, Tories Out”, in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)