British voters will judge “very harshly” any UK Prime Minister who lets Gibraltar down in Brexit talks, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
Mr Picardo was reflecting on the forthcoming UK general election and said he was confident Britain would continue to stand by the Rock, whoever won at the polls.
“We will not be let down at five minutes to midnight,” Mr Picardo said.
“The British people would judge very harshly a prime minister or any other minister in the British cabinet who at the last minute lets down the people of Gibraltar.”
“The next prime minister of the United Kingdom … will continue to stand by the people of Gibraltar and continue to ensure that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is secure.”
Mr Picardo was speaking as EU leaders prepare to meet at a summit on Saturday EU leader to agree their negotiating strategy for Brexit.
Draft guidelines released earlier this month include a clause that gives Spain a veto over whether any future trade deal between the UK and the EU can be extended to include Gibraltar.
In the House of Commons, Tory MP and longtime friend of Gibraltar, Bob Neill, raised the issue during a debate with Brexit Minister David Davis.
“Will he make sure that those two key areas also get the full benefit of our ambitious free trade deal?” Mr Neill asked.
“My honourable friend is just about old enough to remember that I have had to defend Gibraltar before,” Mr Davis replied.
“We succeeded then, we will succeed now.”
The exchange came as Prime Minister Theresa May warned on Thursday that the other 27 EU nations were “lining up to oppose” the UK.
“We can see how tough those negotiations are going to be at times,” Mrs May said during a rally in Leeds.
“Our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations, at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us.
“That approach can only mean one thing uncertainty and instability, bringing grave risk to our growing economy with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt.”
She was speaking after Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel claimed the UK had “illusions” about the realities of Brexit and insisted talks on the UK’s divorce bill from the European Union must be dealt with before negotiations on any trade deal can begin.
That message was underlined again today by Donald Dusk, the president of the European Council, who said Britain must agree to honour its outstanding financial commitments to the European Union before talks about trade can begin.