Britain’s commitment to upholding Gibraltar’s British sovereignty and its right to self determination is as “immoveable as the Pillars of Hercules themselves”, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said last night.
Speaking at the Gibraltar reception on the sidelines of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Mr Johnson said there would be no change or negotiation on Gibraltar’s sovereignty against the wishes of the Gibraltarians.
“That double lock is there for the people of Gibraltar,” Mr Johnson said.
“It remains absolutely fixed and immoveable as the Pillars of Hercules themselves, the Rock of Gibraltar and…Djebel Must on the other side.”
“We will defend this Rock and we will defend the principle of democracy, because that fundamentally is what it is all about,” he said.
“This isn’t about the Treaty of Utrecht, this is about the right of people to determine their own future.”
Mr Johnson said the UK would defend not just Gibraltar’s right to self determination, but its economy too.
The Foreign Secretary said he was certain the UK would be able to ensure that Brexit for for the UK, Gibraltar and Spain.
And he highlighted too the Rock’s continued importance as a military base and staging post at the western end of the Mediterranean.
“The relationship and the partnership that exists between us and Gibraltar is absolutely vital,” Mr Johnson, noting the logistical support provided by the Rock to HMS Ocean as it deployed recently to the Caribbean on a humanitarian mission.
Britain has responded “with genuine and realistic reassurance” to Gibraltar’s fears about its post-Brexit future, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said at the Gibraltar reception last night.
Addressing a packed room, Mr Picardo said he had no doubts that the Tory party would stand by Gibraltar and never budge on sovereignty against the wishes of the Gibraltarians.
Not only that, he said the British Government across all its ministries was working in concert with the Gibraltar Government to ensure the Rock’s continued economic prosperity once the UK leaves the EU.
“Conservatives – whether they were advocates of remain or leave in the referendum – have stood by us as we look to the challenges that the decision to leave the European Union set before us,” Mr Picardo said.
“And our partnership will deliver a successful Brexit for Gibraltar, a prosperous Brexit for Gibraltar.”
“Because we are already working on maintaining and enhancing our access to our most important market, the UK market on the basis of a common regulatory standard agreed between us.”
He said this was “a fantastic reinforcement” of the “cast iron, clear and unequivocal pledge” given to Gibraltar by David Davis that the UK would not do any deal on future trade with the European Union if Gibraltar was left out of it because of Spanish pressure.
“That is what friendship and commitment means in practical terms,” the Chief Minister said. “The European Commission has already bent to Spanish pressure in its shoddy and probably illegal negotiating guidelines on Gibraltar.”
“But I do not believe this is a Conservative Government that will ever surrender to Spain pressure to sacrifice Gibraltar’s commercial interests and its prosperity.”
Mr Picardo said he also believed that Spain would understand that the UK and Gibraltar were seeking a strong future relationship based on mutual respect and commercial benefit for all sides.
“We continue to seek friendship from our Spanish neighbours and all our European partners,” he told guests at the reception.
“Together we can convince all of them that the way ahead is trade and friendship, co-operation and security, partnership and shared values.”
“But we will never compromise any aspect of sovereignty, jurisdiction or control in exchange for any commercial advantage.”
“Our British Sovereignty means more than anything to us.”