Brexit will “neither defeat nor define” Gibraltar, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said yesterday in a rallying call on the 25th anniversary of National Day, the last one before the UK and Gibraltar leave the European Union.
Gibraltar would turn “the Brexit challenge into a Brexit win”, the Chief Minister said as he delivered a bullish message bolstered by cross-party support from both houses of the UK Parliament and, for the third consecutive year, a direct message from the Prime Minister of the UK to the people of Gibraltar.
In a video played to the political rally, Theresa May celebrated Gibraltar’s rich history and culture and underscored the UK’s double-lock sovereignty commitment to the Rock and its people.
“For more than 300 years the UK and Gibraltar have been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder,” she said.
“Today as we mark Gibraltar National Day I can assure you that this will not change as we leave the European Union.”
“We joined the EU together. We are leaving together and as we step forward into the latest chapter of our shared history we will once again do so together.”
“The Government of Gibraltar is fully involved in the Brexit negotiations and nothing will ever weaken our commitment to the people who call the Rock their home as long as the people of Gibraltar want to remain British.”
“British is what the people of Gibraltar will remain and there should be no doubt whatsoever about our commitment to the double lock a commitment as solid as the Rock of Ages itself.”
“Gibraltar is a vital part of the UK’s past, present and future and I’m immensely proud to help you celebrate it today.”
Among the 32 UK parliamentarians in Gibraltar for the rally was Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign Office, whose presence in Casmates for the second consecutive year further cemented the UK Government’s support for Gibraltar. In London, the flag of Gibraltar flew over the Foreign Office building.
“The ties that bind us remain as solid as the Rock itself,” Sir Alan said.
On stage too was Arlene Foster, the leader of Democratic Unionist Party who until recently was also the First Minister of Norther Ireland, and whose party is critical in keeping the Conservatives in government in the UK.
She too highlighted the DUP’s support for Gibraltar, reflecting on the Gibraltarians’ links to Norther Ireland, where many were evacuated during World War II, and this community’s history of resilience and pride in the face of hardship and challenge, traits she said were shared with the people of Northern Ireland.
One after another, the UK MPs who addressed the rally reaffirmed the cross-party support that Gibraltar enjoys in Westminster.
Liz McInnes, Labour’s shadow Foreign Minister, said she and her colleagues would continue to ensure Gibraltar’s voice was heard among the decision-makers in the UK.
“We will continue to speak up for the rights of the Gibraltarians to self determination,” she said.
“We will continue to ensure your voice is heard in Westminster.”
That was a message echoed by Conservative Bob Neill, the chairman of the all-party Gibraltar group in the House of Commons and a longstanding champion of Gibraltar in the UK Parliament.
He said the UK and Gibraltar would face the challenges of Brexit together.
“We stand with you,” he told the rally.
“We’re here to work for you and ensure your voice is heard.”
There were letters of support too from Labour’s Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland.
“Scotland values its relationship with Gibraltar and we remain committed to working together,” Ms Sturgeon
“In common with the people of Gibraltar, a majority of Scots voted to remain in the European Union, and we believe staying in the single market and customs union would be the best outcome from the Brexit negotiations.”
In addressing the rally, Mr Picardo reflected on the struggles and courage of past generations of Gibraltarians.
He spoke of how the evacuation generation endured war and conflict, torn from the homeland but with the fortitude to return and rebuild.
He spoke too of the referendum generation, who stood up to Franco “with a pencil and ballot paper”, and the closed border generation, who endured Spain’s attempt to force its sovereignty agenda by isolating the Rock.
“Now we, the Brexit generation, will lead our people through this time of flux and change,” he said.
“Because this is our time, it is our time to take responsibility, our time to work to deliver no less a successful inheritance for our children than we took from our parents.”
And he added: ““In the comfort and prosperity of today we will succeed so long as we never forget the sacrifices of yesterday that still shape the privileges our children will enjoy tomorrow.”
“And in that way, we will emerge stronger, as a people forged in the determination of those who came before us.”
“And with the resolve, strength and vision of those of us who know that our future is brighter than our past.”
Mr Picardo said it was in the Gibraltarian DNA “to work, sacrifice and innovate” in the face of adversity.
“In or out of the European Union, we are a hard-working people of peace, of goodwill, a people who will ensure that our Rock is always first, foremost and forever the homeland of the Gibraltarians.”
Mr Picardo said that as Gibraltar left the EU, it was proud to have played a part in building the Europe of today, and would work along with the UK to remain a partner of the European project.
Brexit, he said, “will neither defeat nor define us”.
“Our ancestors came from every shore of the Mediterranean and beyond, from Genoa, Malta, India, North Africa, Britain,” he said.
“They built their dreams in the face of adversity.”
“We overcame every siege to live the British dream.”
“Leaving the EU is just one more step on our journey.”
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