Full speech delivered by Opposition leader Daniel Feetham in Parliament on June 24.
In 1980, Joseph Elliott Trudeau, the then Prime Minister of Canada, and the father of the current Prime Minister of that country, reflecting on the Quebec referendum, said:
“It is obvious that these are historic moments. There are very few examples in the history of democracy of one part of a country choosing to decide, for its self and by itself, whether, YES or NO, it wants to be part of a country to which it has (…) belonged.”
In less than two years, the United Kingdom has faced not one such historic moment, in the Scottish referendum, but a second equally seminal moment in yesterday’s referendum which – ironically – will test the resilience of the Union in the next few years. I pray, as someone who feels passionately about the Union and forming a part of the British family of nations that, though undoubtedly tested, the Union will prove resilient over the next few years.
Sadly for us, the result has not been what we wanted here in this House, and what the people of Gibraltar have voted for in massive numbers. We could not have done more than we did here in Gibraltar; I am proud of my fellow Gibraltarians who once again have not been found wanting.
It has not, indeed, been the will of the people of Scotland, or Northern Ireland, who have all voted by a majority for Remain.
But it is the will of the United Kingdom as a whole and in any democracy one must respect that will.
Every new chapter in life, and politics is no different, brings its challenges but so too hope and opportunities. We as a people are no strangers to adversity and have faced and overcome many challenges in the past. Our community has a strength of purpose and resilience to overcome adversity again and together we will again prevail.
There will be no despair on this side of the House and I want the people of Gibraltar to know that we will be working hard to ensure that Gibraltar is kept safe, secure and prosperous.
In this House we must now deal in hope; realistic hope but hope none the less.
We need above all to develop a positive and workable road map for the future and that is what we will concentrate on doing. Hopefully, Mr Speaker, working with the Government to devise that road map as equal partners on a non-partisan and transparent basis. The creation of a non-partisan roadmap will help confidence and create a measure of certainty that our businesses and people need.
Our main immediate focus has to be to obtain guarantees from the United Kingdom that Gibraltar will be included in any trade deals negotiated with third parties, any renegotiated access to the Single Market and unrestricted access to the UK market in areas such as insurance, financial services and gaming. Mr Speaker, this situation is not of Gibraltar’s making and the Government of the United Kingdom (particularly one that is led by Brexiteers) owes a duty to the people of Gibraltar to ensure that we are not left behind and that Gibraltar does not suffer economic damage over the next two years. Early guarantees from the United Kingdom will ensure certainty and stability in Gibraltar.
My message to our fellow Gibraltarians today is this:
Gibraltar has always prevailed even in the most difficult of circumstances and I am confident that we can work through future difficulties and that we will be able to maintain and defend the Gibraltarian way of life!