SPAIN could make a fresh power grab for Gibraltar if the UK votes to leave the EU, Brexit supporters have been warned.
A victory for the Leave campaign on June 23 could threaten British sovereignty over the Iberian peninsula and see strict border controls introduced at the only crossing into the rest of mainland Europe.
The warning came from Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo, who said anti-EU voters would have "a lot to answer for" if Britain quit the European Union next month.
Mr Picardo said Spain's foreign minister had been "explicit" in saying leaving the EU "might mean closing the frontier".
That would force Gibraltarians to once again consider joint-sovereignty with the Spanish, a prospect few of the territory's 23,000 adult residents are in favour of.
Mr Picardo told Sky News: "If Gibraltar wanted to have access to the single market and the rights we enjoy today of free movement, we would have to once again consider joint sovereignty with Spain which no one in Gibraltar is prepared to consider."
He said although it is unlikely the border would be closed completely, Spain could still introduce stricter checks at the crossing which would be a nightmare for tourists and an estimated 10,000 workers who commute back and forth every day.
That in turn would impact on Gibraltar's economy, which is currently in rude health thanks to its accounting and financial services industry, tourism and gambling.
The punitive measures would potentially be introduced as the UK finally left the Union, not the day after the vote, Mr Picardo added.
Gibraltar, on the Spanish south coast, has long been a point of contention between the UK and Spain.
The territory has been under British-rule since 1713, when it was ceded in perpetuity under the Treaty of Ultrecht following the War of the Spanish Succession.
It has always been of strategic military importance, and played a vital role as a Royal Navy base during World War Two.
In a 2002 referendum, the people of Gibraltar emphatically voted against joint-sovereignty with Spain, despite both the Spanish and UK governments reportedly reaching broad agreement.
Gibraltarians are expected to vote overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU, with more than nine out of 10 people saying they wanted to stay in a poll conducted by the Gibraltar Chronicle.
But even if every single person in Gibraltar voted to remain, that would still only represent 0.05 per cent of the total electorate.