The ability of Britons continuing to travel visa-free to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit next month faces being derailed in a dispute over Gibraltar.

Emergency European Union plans to allow travel without visas to be maintained have been blocked by Spain, which is demanding Gibraltar be described as a “colony” in the Brussels statute book, The Times reported.

The Spanish government refused to back the visa legislation earlier this month unless the other 26 EU member states added a footnote to the legal text with a reference to Gibraltar as a “colony of the British Crown”.

MEPs, who must agree the legislation, rejected the Spanish demand as “colonial language which has no place in the world”.

It is the third time the European parliament has rejected the legislation.

If the impasse is not broken and the UK leaves without a deal, British nationals seeking to stay in the EU for less than 90 days would need a visa costing €60 (£52) and taking two weeks to be authorised.

The legal text agreed on February 1 said: “Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown. There is a controversy between Spain and the UK concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached in light of the relevant resolutions and decisions of the general assembly of the United Nations.”

Because of Spain the words will be added to all future EU legislation regarding the status and scope of British territory after Brexit.

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