As Cameron appointed Foreign Secretary, Albares says Spain committed to Gib treaty
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares on Monday signalled Spain’s continued commitment to a treaty for Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations with the EU, hours after David Cameron made a dramatic return to UK frontline politics as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tried to reset his government before the general election expected next year.
The former prime minister has become Foreign Secretary, with a seat in the Lords, as Mr Sunak risked a row with the Tory right after sacking controversial home secretary Suella Braverman.
James Cleverly shifted from the Foreign Office to replace Mrs Braverman as Home Secretary.
Reacting to the news on X, the social media platform formally known as Twitter, Mr Albares congratulated Mr Cameron on his appointment.
“We will work together to strengthen Spain-United Kingdom relations and to achieve the development of an area of shared prosperity that benefits Campo de Gibraltar-Gibraltar,” he wrote, posting the message in both Spanish and English.
Negotiations on a UK/EU treaty for Gibraltar are currently on hold pending the outcome of the electoral process in Spain following an inconclusive general election last July.
Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, reached pacts with smaller independentist parties over the past week that will likely give him the support he needs in parliament to secure another four-year term in the coming days.
Mr Sanchez faces fierce opposition to his controversial coalition agreements but the hope here is that talks on the Gibraltar treaty will be able to resume soon.
As prime minister, David Cameron took the decision to call the 2016 referendum on the UK – and by extension, Gibraltar’s – membership of the EU. Despite campaigning for Remain, that was a decision that has drawn criticism, including here.
But on Monday, No.6 Convent Place focused on Mr Cameron’s support for Gibraltar during his time in office.
No.6 recalled that in 2016, prior to the Brexit referendum, Mr Cameron was the first British Prime Minister to visit Gibraltar since 1967, although the visit was cut short by the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox on the same day he was on the Rock.
As Prime Minister, he “repeatedly demonstrated his tangible commitment” to Gibraltar and his “deep understanding of and appreciation” for its politics, economy, people and culture, No.6 said.
Following the Brexit referendum results, then Prime Minister David Cameron ensured that Gibraltar would be fully involved in the negotiating process and that Gibraltar’s sovereignty would never be a question for discussion, No.6 added.
The Gibraltar Government had words of praise for Mr Cleverly too, saying he had “always been a good friend to Gibraltar, its Government and its people, and as Foreign Secretary through the difficult negotiations for our future relationship with the European Union, has always been a staunch defender of Gibraltar’s right to self-determination”.
“James Cleverly has proven the continued commitment of the UK Government to keep the interests of Gibraltar and its people at the heart of the negotiations and has reaffirmed the UK’s promise to value and protect the unique and strong relationship between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom,” No.6 said.
On Monday, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo wrote to both Mr Cameron and Mr Cleverly following news of the reshuffle.
“David Cameron’s support for Gibraltar during his time as Prime Minister was unwavering and I look forward to enjoying the continuance of that strong relationship as he returns to frontline politics as Foreign Secretary today,” Mr Picardo said.
“I would also like to reflect on and thank James Cleverly for his time as Foreign Secretary, during which we stood shoulder to shoulder in defending and promoting Gibraltar’s interests in the long and difficult process of the negotiation of our future relationship with the EU.”
“This morning I wrote to both Mr Cameron and Mr Cleverly to congratulate them on their new appointments on behalf of the Government and People of Gibraltar.”
Lord Cameron’s appointment was a massive shock in Westminster, not just because of the return of a former prime minister to government – the first since Alec Douglas-Home in the 1970s – but also because of his views on China.
During the Cameron administration there was a “golden era” of UK-China co-operation, something Mr Sunak described as “naive” last year following growing tensions with Beijing.
Lord Cameron has also been critical of Mr Sunak’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2, while the Prime Minister used his Tory conference speech to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessors.
But the former prime minister made it clear he backs Mr Sunak and will work with him to help the Tories win the general election, which is expected next year.
The new Foreign Secretary said: “Though I may have disagreed with some individual decisions, it is clear to me that Rishi Sunak is a strong and capable Prime Minister, who is showing exemplary leadership at a difficult time.”
The Prime Minister’s decision to jettison Mrs Braverman followed inflammatory comments suggesting homelessness is sometimes a “lifestyle choice” and an unauthorised newspaper article criticising the way police have handled pro-Palestinian “mobs”.
Sacking one of the leading figures on the Tory right could pose difficulties for the Prime Minister as he seeks to get his party united behind him for the election.
Ominously for the Prime Minister, Mrs Braverman said she will have “more to say in due course” about her exit.
Former minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns said Mrs Braverman was “sacked for speaking the truth” and it was a “bad call by Rishi caving in to the left”.
Former Tory treasurer Lord Cruddas also criticised Mr Sunak’s actions, saying: “The coup is complete, remain has won and democracy has lost.”
A number of other new appointments were also announced in the reshuffle.
PA contributed reporting to this article.