Shared sovereignty ‘would strip us of who we are’, Picardo says

Shared sovereignty ‘would strip us of who we are’, Picardo says

Sharing Gibraltar’s sovereignty with Spain would “strip us of who we are”, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said today as he insisted it was “only fair, proper and right” that any future trade deal between the EU and the UK also apply to the Rock.
Mr Picardo was speaking on the BBC’s flagship Andrew Marr Show two days after the EU singled out Gibraltar in its draft negotiating guidelines and said any move to include Gibraltar in a future deal must have prior agreement from Spain.
Questioned by the BBC’s Eddie Mair, Mr Picardo played down claims that the UK Government had let Gibraltar down by failing to include it in the Article 50 letter triggering Brexit.
He said the Gibraltar Government had worked closely with the UK Government in preparing that letter and remained “absolutely confident” about the “tactical and strategic decision” made.
“And as the time comes we’ll make the right tactical and strategic decisions with the Prime Minister leading us in those negotiations, which will be in the interests of the people of Gibraltar in pursuit of their wishes,” he added.


The Chief Minister was pushed on this point and insisted that Gibraltar was mentioned “tangentially” in the letter, which refers to an earlier White Paper that sets out the UK position on Gibraltar.
“I’m not thrilled that we are in the situation in which we are – Gibraltar voted 96% to remain,” Mr Picardo said.
“But we have energetically and enthusiastically decided that we have to support the Prime Minister in this process of making Brexit a success for Britain and for Gibraltar.”
“And therein lies the rub: when we get the deal in Brexit, it must be a deal that applies of course to the United Kingdom in respect of future trade, and if there is such a deal, it is only fair, proper and right that it should apply to Gibraltar.”
Mr Picardo was asked why sharing sovereignty with Spain “would be so awful”.
He replied that Gibraltar would cease in part to be British if the Spanish co-sovereignty proposal was accepted.
“It would strip us of who we are,” he said.
“It would be absolutely awful because our home would have been handed over to a party who has no claim to title.”
“Our day to day lives would not be the lives that would we live today. We would be living in somebody else’s land.”
After his interview on the BBC show, Mr Picardo said he had spoken to Prime Minister Theresa May, who was “very supportive”.


In the phone call, Mrs May offered reassurance to the people of Gibraltar that the UK remains “steadfastly committed” to the Rock amid concerns over the Brexit process.
The Prime Minister told Mr Picardo that the UK remained “absolutely dedicated to working with Gibraltar for the best possible outcome on Brexit”.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said Mrs May “reiterated our long-standing position that the UK remains steadfastly committed to our support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy”.
“The Prime Minister said we will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, nor will we ever enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.
“The Prime Minister said we remain absolutely dedicated to working with Gibraltar for the best possible outcome on Brexit and will continue to involve them fully in the process.”
Mr Picardo also wrote an opinion piece for the Sunday Express.


DEFENCE SECRETARY
A senior UK Government minister who was also a guest on the Andrew Marr Show was quizzed further on Gibraltar.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon left no doubt as to the UK’s resolve in standing by Gibraltar.
“We are very clear that there cannot be a change in the status and the sovereignty of Gibraltar unless the people of Gibraltar agree to it, and they don’t, they clearly don’t,” Mr Fallon said.
“So that is not going to happen.”
“Gibraltar is going to be involved in these negotiations. [The Chief Minister] is going to be involved throughout.”
“There will in the end of course be an agreement that fully respects the position of Gibraltar.”


Mr Mair noted that the Conservative manifesto at the last election included Gibraltar in the same paragraph as the Falklands.
He asked Sir Michael how far the UK would be prepared to go to defend Gibraltar.
“We’re going to look after Gibraltar,” the Defence Secretary replied.
“Gibraltar is going to be protected all the way, because the sovereignty of Gibraltar cannot be changed without the agreement of the people of Gibraltar, and they’ve made it very clear they do not want to live under Spanish rule.”
“It’s interesting that in the draft guidelines from the EU, Spain is not saying that whole thing is subject to the transfer of sovereignty.”
Former Conservative leader Lord Howard said there was “no question” about the UK’s stance on the sovereignty of Gibraltar – comparing the Rock to the Falkland Islands.
He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman prime minister sent a task force halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country, and I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar.”


Lord Howard’s remarks drew immediate criticism amid calls for a more tempered tone in the Brexit debate.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “It is unbelievable that within a week of triggering Article 50 there are Conservatives already discussing potential wars with our European neighbours.”
“In only a few days the Conservative right are turning long-term allies into potential enemies.” “I hope this isn’t a sign of the Government’s approach to the long negotiations to come.”
“Brexiteers have gone from cheering to sabre rattling for war in four days, it is absolutely ludicrous.”
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said: “Inflammatory comments like those by Michael Howard will not help Britain get what it needs from these difficult Brexit negotiations.”
“Sadly, it’s typical of the botched Tory approach which threatens a bad deal for Britain.”
“Labour is clear that the sovereignty of Gibraltar must be protected and that the interests of British citizens in Gibraltar are safeguarded.”

Main pic Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire

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