There is no conflict between being British and being European, the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia has told the plenary session of the UK Liberal Democrats conference in Brighton.
Dr Garcia was given special permission to address the conference during the debate on a Policy Motion on Britain and the European Union.
He explained that Gibraltar had voted 67% in favour of the Liberal Democrats during the last European elections and that 96% of the electorate had voted to remain in the EU.
Dr Garcia said that the Policy Motion referred to the risks to Gibraltar posed by Brexit and added that these risks were potentially “very significant and very real”.
He also highlighted how important freedom of movement is to Gibraltar and made the point that 12,000 people crossed the border to and from Spain in order to work in Gibraltar, representing half the labour force.
Similarly, he spoke of the importance of access to the EU Single Market.
Dr Garcia outlined the “threats” against Gibraltar made by Spain in relation to the border and also the attempted “blackmail” in relation to joint-sovereignty.
He said that joint-sovereignty had been rejected nearly unanimously in a referendum held in 2002.
“There is no place more pro-British or more patriotic than Gibraltar, and we are a shining example of how you can be British and European at the same time.”
“There is no conflict between the two,” he added.
According to the Government, the intervention on the Policy Motion was very well received with a standing ovation by the floor and it was followed by other speakers including the former UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who is now the party’s Brexit spokesman.
Meanwhile, at the traditional Gibraltar Government reception Dr Garcia told delegates that the interests of Gibraltar must be fully protected during the negotiation of a new relationship between the UK and the EU.
In reply, the Foreign Affairs spokesman for the UK Liberal Democrats Tom Brake pledged his full support for Gibraltar, in front of MPs, Lords and other politicians.
In his address Dr Garcia also outlined the threats against Gibraltar that had been levelled by the Acting Spanish Foreign Minister Mr Margallo over recent months.
These threats had culminated in the attempt to bounce Gibraltar into shared-sovereignty with Spain as the price to pay if Gibraltar wanted to remain in the European Union.
“The people of Gibraltar overwhelmingly rejected joint-sovereignty in 2002 and we continue to do so to the day. Three hundred years of British culture, traditions and way of life have taught us not to give in to bullies”, Dr Garcia said.
“The forward is self-determination and not submission to blackmail.”
A number of separate events connected to Brexit have been planned during the party conference including the main plenary debate on a Policy Motion on Europe.
There will also be a separate panel discussion about the impact of Brexit from a European perspective, a business lunch, a number of one to one meetings and an opportunity to brief the international committee.
Dr Garcia is accompanied in Brighton by the Minister for Business and Employment Neil Costa and the Minister for Heritage and Culture Steven Linares.
Also present is Gibraltar’s UK representative, Dominique Searle.
This is the first of three political party conferences in the UK at which Gibraltar will lobby to ensure its position is fully understood.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo will head the delegation at the Conservative and Labour Party conferences.
The Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia will do the same at the party conferences of the Liberal Democrats, which started at the weekend, and of the Scottish National Party.