Spain has nothing to gain by pushing for Gibraltar’s exclusion from the transition deal smoothing the UK’s departure from the bloc, the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia has said.
He was speaking at an evening reception for the visiting cross-party group of UK parliamentarians who arrived in Gibraltar last Wednesday for a two-day working visit.
“The very notion that Gibraltar should be excluded from the transition or the future relationship agreements beggars belief.”
“This is in nobody’s interests.”
“Nobody has anything to gain by leaving Gibraltar out.”
“And many thousands of people in Gibraltar and in Spain itself have much to lose.”
Nonetheless Dr Garcia said that the Gibraltar Government remains ready to engage with Spain, as a next door neighbour, in a positive and constructive manner as we prepare to leave the European Union.
He said that there was already a degree of shared prosperity between Gibraltar and the neighbouring region of Spain, pointing to 13,000 frontier workers, the £90 million a year spent by Gibraltar residents in Spain and the £400 million a year purchased from Spanish companies by Gibraltar businesses.
There was scope for even greater shared prosperity through a fluid border which, he said, was in everybody’s interests.
He made the point that this fluidity should be extended to residents and to citizens in general, not only to workers.
He made clear that the red lines of the Gibraltar Government and of the Spanish Government are well known. However, he argued that there was space between those sets of red lines to seek positive cooperation with practical, modern solutions which do not cross any of them.
The cross-party group comprised Conservative MP Robert Goodwill , Labour Shadow Foreign Minister Liz McInnes, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesman Tom Brake, Labour Foreign Affairs Committee Member Mike Gapes and DUP Northern Ireland Assembly Member William Humphreys MLA.
Reflecting on recent speculation in the media, Dr Garcia said the Gibraltar Government’s red lines in relation to the airport are very clear.
The red lines of the Spanish Government are clear as well, he said.
But there is space between those sets of red lines to seek positive cooperation with practical, modern solutions which do not cross any of them, Dr Garcia told the visiting MPs.
Flagging the Cordoba Agreement, Dr Garcia said that although there were aspects of the Agreement that the existing Governments of Gibraltar and of Spain did not like at the time when we were both in Opposition, it could still serve as the basis for a broader discussion.
“Let me make it absolutely clear that Gibraltar will not cede an inch of our sovereignty, jurisdiction and control,” he added.
“It is important to understand that this is about more than actual sovereignty.”
“The symbols and the ingredients of power are just as important.”
“You cannot separate one from the other, particularly against the background of a continuing territorial claim,” he added.
“In other words, it is a contradiction in terms to put sovereignty to one side and then seek to advance the symbols of sovereignty in the same breath.”
Dr Garcia urged the MPs to ensure that the position of Gibraltar was protected as we leave the European Union.
He said that Gibraltar has been British for more than 300 years, which is longer than the United States, Germany or Italy have existed.
“In that time, we have come of age under the broad umbrella of British values, traditions and way of life. There are some lessons that we have learnt extremely well. One such lesson is never to give in to bullies.”
“And you can rest assured that we never will.”
In response on behalf of the guests, Labour MP Mike Gapes thanked the Government for the organisation of the visit to Gibraltar and made it clear that the group had well understood the concerns that had been expressed, which they would now take back to Westminster.
He reiterated the cross-party support for Gibraltar that existed in the United Kingdom.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja