Gibraltar “will not fold” in the face of Spain’s Brexit demands, Gibraltar’s Minister for Housing and Equality told the DUP party conference in Belfast on Saturday.
Samantha Sacramento was given a rousing reception by the DUP faithful in Belfast as she insisted that Gibraltar will not be “bullied” by any bid from Madrid to undermine its sovereignty.
“It is critical that the United Kingdom remains firm in defence of our right to self-determination and that Spain is given no hope, absolutely no hope, in its campaign to take our sovereignty from us,” she said.
Ms Sacramento was standing in for Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who is in Gibraltar working closely with the UK Government against the backdrop of renewed focus on Gibraltar in the Brexit talks.
He had been due to address the conference but pulled out following developments in recent days.
Spain is demanding that Gibraltar’s inclusion in any future relationship between the UK and the EU is considered a bilateral issue between London and Madrid rather than between the EU and UK.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has threatened to “veto” progress without further guarantees for Madrid over the future status of Gibraltar.
Mr Sanchez warned on Friday that Sunday’s key European Council summit could be scrapped unless there was a breakthrough.
Ms Sacramento was applauded as she told DUP conference delegates in the Crown Plaza Hotel: “Gibraltar will not fold.”
“The Union Jack, our precious Union Jack, is not a mere flag. To those of us who have endured hard times to secure the continuity of our British heritage, our British values and freedoms, the Union Jack encapsulates all we are as a people.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted the proposed EU withdrawal deal is in the interests of “the whole UK family”, including Gibraltar.
She said Gibraltar will not be excluded from the negotiation on the future relationship.
The DUP, which props up Mrs May’s minority Conservative Government in the House of Commons, said it would back Gibraltar.
“Gibraltar is British and we will use our voices and our votes in parliament to stand with British Gibraltar,” Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds told the conference.
Ms Sacramento, who was greeted by DUP leader Arlene Foster, said Gibraltar was committed to making Brexit work, despite the fact that 96% of its citizens voted Remain.
“It is critical that the United Kingdom remains firm in the defence of our right to self-determination and that Spain is given no hope in its campaign to take our sovereignty from us,” she told the DUP conference.
“Our borders and our history are very different but our solidarity in defence of our democratic right to preserve our British way of life is unshakeable.”
“Gibraltar greatly appreciates the support that the DUP has expressed in support of Gibraltar and its right to remain British and, as my Chief Minister so often says, we are red, white and blue, we are red, white and proud.”
And she added: “People talk a lot about our borders and about the problems that
borders can bring.”
“History has taught us that, where there is good political will, where there is respect for each other’s jurisdiction, laws and government, borders need not be obstacles or impediments to
good and fluid communication.”
“Indeed, they can allow differences which foster prosperity and respect.”