Gibraltar was discussed in Madrid yesterday during a wide-ranging meeting on Brexit between the UK’s Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington, and Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alfonso Dastis.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Lidington expressed confidence that a constructive agreement would be reached on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations with Spain and the wider EU.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the meeting had covered many foreign policy issues other than Gibraltar, highlighting “the deep bilateral relationship” between the UK and Spain and reiterating the UK’s commitment to forge even greater ties after it leaves the EU.
In a statement, the Foreign Office said the ministers discussed the practical implications of the UK’s departure, “…including for Gibraltar where the priority remains to provide certainty to the thousands of people and businesses affected.”
“Mr Lidington reiterated that the UK is confident that by engaging in regular conversations with the Government of Gibraltar and our EU partners – including Spain – we will find a way forward that benefits everyone living and working in the region,” the statement added.
Mr Lindington, a former Minister for Europe, is a long-standing friend of Gibraltar and has a detailed knowledge of the issues that affect this community.
Ahead of the meeting, the British minister published a full-page opinion piece in Spain’s ABC newspaper setting out a broad vision for the UK’s future relationship with both Spain and the EU.
In the piece, he touched on Gibraltar and said that despite “a complex set of implications”, he remained positive that an agreement could be reached that was acceptable to all parties.
But he stressed that the UK would not budge on the issue of sovereignty.
“The benefits of the interconnectedness of the Campo de Gibraltar and the Rock are demonstrated each day, as thousands of Spaniards, Brits and citizens across the EU complete their daily commute,” he wrote.
“The number of livelihoods this supports underlines the importance of preserving these links long into the future.”
“That is why we have been engaging regularly with the Government of Gibraltar and our European partners, including Spain, to provide the certainty required by people and businesses on either side.”
“Given our clear and longstanding differences with Spain on sovereignty, our task will not always be straightforward.”
“But while the UK position is, and will remain, resolute, we are confident that a constructive spirit and focus on our very real shared interests will enable us to find a mutually agreeable resolution that benefits everyone living and working in the region.”
Yesterday’s discussion also covered current foreign policy issues including Russia, the Iran nuclear deal, and the situation in Venezuela.
The two ministers recognised that the people of Spain and the UK have close ties and that the two nations are major partners in trade.
Mr Lidington underlined that the British Government is committed to maintaining existing levels of close cooperation in the future and said that the UK will also continue to work together to keep citizens safe.
“Today I had a constructive meeting with Spanish Foreign Secretary Alfonso Dastis,” Mr Lidington said.
“The UK and Spain are friends and allies with a long history together, and we are looking for- ward to tightening those bonds even further.”
“We have made significant progress in our negotiations to leave the EU so far, and we are confident that we can find a way forward together that is to the benefit and shared prosperity of both ourselves and the European Union.”
“We want to be ambitious about the future relationship with the EU we are seeking, in both in our economic and security partner- ships.”
“I am convinced that with our shared goodwill, creativity and focus, we will overcome the challenges ahead.”
The UK and Spain are close partners in NATO and the United Nations, among numerous international organisations, the Foreign Office said.
The commercial relationship between both countries rose to 43 billion pounds in 2016.
Nearly 19 million British tourists visited Spain in 2017 and around 300,000 British people are residents, while almost 200,000 Spanish people live in the UK.