The draft agreement reached last week by the UK and the EU “correctly applies to Gibraltar”, Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday, as she insisted her government was working closely with the Gibraltar Government to “ensure” that the Rock was covered by any deal on withdrawal, transition and the future EU/UK relationship.
Mrs May was addressing MPs in the House of Commons, where she delivered a statement on the European Council meeting last week and expressed confidence that outstanding issues including the Northern Ireland/Ireland border could be resolved.
“We have also been working closely with the Government of Gibraltar to ensure that Gibraltar is covered by our EU negotiations on withdrawal, the implementation period and future relationship,” Mrs May said.
“I am pleased that the draft agreement published jointly last week correctly applies to Gibraltar, but we will continue to engage closely with the Government of Gibraltar and our European partners to resolve the particular challenges our EU withdrawal poses for Gibraltar and for Spain.”
Mrs May’s intervention drew a number of questions from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who also raised the issue of Gibraltar.
“Has the Prime Minister signed up to there being an Anglo-Spanish bilateral agreement on Gibraltar and can she tell the House who will lead the negotiations for the government?” Mr Corbyn asked.
“Not you,” came a voice from the Tory backbenches, to laughter. The Prime Minister, however, did not answer Mr Corbyn’s question.
There were also exchanges on Gibraltar in the House of Lords, where peers yesterday continued their marathon line-by-line examination of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill during its committee stage.
Residents of Gibraltar are suffering “great anxiety” over their future because of Brexit, said independent crossbencher Lord Luce, a former Governor of Gibraltar.
Lord Luce said: “Without any doubt, the people of Gibraltar, as a whole, have been suffering from great anxiety over the last several months about their future.”
“It is essential that we find ways to assure them of their future.”
He highlighted the concerns felt over the EU giving Spain a Brexit veto in relation to Gibraltar.
“It is in the hands of Spain whether they handle the issue of Gibraltar like Catalonia or whether they handle it in a more sane fashion,” he added.
Baroness Butler-Sloss highlighted Gibraltar’s “very precarious” position in respect of Brexit and its future relations with the EU, but expressed hope that Spain would acknowledge the importance of Gibraltar to the neighbouring communities in the Campo de Gibraltar.
“There are reasons why Spain might be sensible and one hopes that the positive discussions that go on may have a good effect,” she said.
The crossbench peer reflected too on the good relations between the UK and Spain, and added: “One wants to be fair to Gibraltar – and Gibraltar is part of us – but also to continue good relations with Spain.”
Responding to the points raised by several peers on Gibraltar, Lord Callanan, the Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the EU, started by stressing the UK Government’s “steadfast support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy”.
He said too that the agreement on withdrawal and transition reached with the EU last week “explicitly includes Gibraltar”.
“That is right and it is consistent with our view that we are negotiating on behalf of the whole UK family,” he said.