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Opinion & Analysis

A moral duty to Gibraltar

Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The report of the EU Select Committee in the House of Lords does a good job of summarising the key Brexit challenges facing Gibraltar.
The peers on the committee have understood with clarity and independence why Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to back Remain.
They are keenly aware of the potential impact of Brexit not just on our community and economy, but on the surrounding hinterland too.
The report leaves no doubt that Gibraltar has friends in the British parliament who will keep our concerns on the UK Government’s radar in the coming months. The message yesterday could not have been clearer. Britain, the peers said, has “a moral duty” to stand up for Gibraltar.
“We fully understand the implications of the 96% vote to Remain and how you feel about it,” Lord Boswell, the committee’s chairman, told this newspaper. “All the bits of the British system...should be focused on these issues, and they will be.”
The committee expressed strong support for the British Government’s double-lock commitment to Gibraltar, and awareness that the UK is a key market for our financial services and must remain so in the future.
Gibraltar is a live issue in the UK's Brexit debate, thanks in large part to relentless and effective lobbying by government ministers and officials here and in London.
In Whitehall yesterday, the UK/Gibraltar Joint Ministerial Council on Brexit met at length to discuss issues ranging from the border to aviation and trade.
The presence at the meeting of three UK ministers - Sir Alan Duncan, Minister for Europe and the Americas; Lord Price, Minister at the Department of International Trade; and Robin Walker, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union – signalled how seriously the UK is taking this.
But despite the positive messaging, let us be under no illusions: the weeks and months ahead will be fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. The Rock remains just a small piece of a far wider, complex jigsaw.
The Lords were right to state in their report that the impact of Brexit on Gibraltar will depend on how Spain reacts.
With goodwill, they noted, practical solutions can be found to critical issues such as border flow. In that respect, the peers’ call for dialogue between the UK, Gibraltar and Spain is to be welcomed. It is a position that the UK and Gibraltar have always maintained.
But dialogue must respect the fact that Gibraltarians have the right to determine their own future and want to remain British. Dialogue, as the peers pointed out, cannot come with a sovereignty price tag.
Officials in Madrid would do well to read the Lords’ report carefully because it offers insight into how influential parliamentarians from across the political spectrum view the issue of Gibraltar and Brexit.
In particular, they should take note of the message that within the context of Brexit, Gibraltar is not a subject for bilateral discussion between Spain and the UK.
Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU will be determined as part of the UK’s negotiation with the bloc as whole. And as Lord Boswell pointed out yesterday, not every EU state will share Spain’s point of view.

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