A proposed new regulation, which has sparked a row with UK officials by describing Gibraltar as a “colony”, will allow visits to the EU for up to 90 days.
Britain has already confirmed that EU citizens will be able to make short-term visits to the UK without a visa after Brexit takes place on 29 March.
The European Council said in a statement: “EU ambassadors today agreed that, following Brexit, UK citizens coming to the Schengen area for a short stay (90 days in any 180 days) should be granted visa free travel.
“Ambassadors mandated the Council Presidency to start negotiations with the European Parliament on this legislative proposal.
“According to EU rules, visa exemption is granted on condition of reciprocity. The government of the United Kingdom has stated that it does not intend to require a visa from EU citizens travelling to the UK for short stays.
“In the event that the United Kingdom introduces a visa requirement for nationals of at least one member state in the future, the existing reciprocity mechanism would apply and the three institutions and the member states would commit to act without delay in applying the mechanism.”
The regulation distinguishes between those living in Britain and those who are citizens of Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory which is now in the EU.
A contentious footnote in the agreement reads: “Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown. There is a controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom 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.”
The British ambassador to the EU raised objections to the text in a meeting of envoys, according to reports.
A government spokesperson said: “The EU’s provisions for visa-free travel into and out of the Schengen area cover Gibraltar, and mean that in any scenario, British nationals from Gibraltar will be able to travel for short stays in and out of Spain and other countries in the Schengen area.
“Gibraltar is not a colony and it is completely inappropriate to describe in this way.
“Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family and has a mature and modern constitutional relationship with the UK. This will not change due to our exit from the EU. All parties should respect the people of Gibraltar’s democratic wish to be British.”