Britain has ‘moral duty’ to protect Gibraltar in Brexit talks, peers say
Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU must be negotiated as part of the wider UK Brexit deal and not bilaterally with Spain, peers said yesterday as they underscored the British Government’s “moral duty” to stand up for the Rock.
The EU Select Committee in the House of Lords warned that with 40% of the Rock’s workforce crossing over the border from Spain every day, withdrawal from the single market would have significant economic implications for Gibraltar.
The fact Gibraltar voted 95.9% to remain in the EU places a special responsibility on London to protect its interests during the Article 50 withdrawal talks, the committee said in a report published yesterday.
But while the Rock must be part of the UK deal with the EU, practical aspects such as managing border flow could be subject to “specific bilateral arrangements” for the benefit not just of Gibraltar but the neighbouring Spanish region too.
Britain, Gibraltar and Spain should “redouble their efforts” to find a structure through which “open lines of communication” can be maintained to promote cooperation and good relations, and that this should be done “in tandem” with Brexit negotiations.
However the British Government must “resist” any attempt by Spain to raise sovereignty in the negotiations under Article 50 or in future negotiations on a UK-EU free trade agreement, the committee said.
Lord Boswell, the chairman of the committee, said peers were “entirely at one” with the British Government’s double-lock commitment that sovereignty could not be changed or even discussed against the wishes of the Gibraltarians.
“In the context of Brexit, the British Government has a moral obligation to the people of Gibraltar to secure their best interests and to make sure their voice is heard in the negotiations,” he told the Chronicle yesterday.
He added he was certain the message was “getting home in Whitehall”.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who addressed the Lords committee earlier this year, yesterday welcomed publication of the report.
Speaking from London after meeting UK ministers for talks on Brexit, he echoed Lord Boswell’s view that the British Government was aware of its responsibilities to Gibraltar.
“We are working closely with the British Government to ensure our views are reflected not just in Brexit discussions but in trade negotiations too, and this wouldn’t be happening if they didn’t recognise that moral responsibility,” Mr Picardo told the Chronicle.
The report was published after a two-month inquiry that took evidence from the Gibraltar Government, the British Government, Gibraltarian politicians and numerous other parties.
The Lords agreed with Mr Picardo that Gibraltar and the UK should be considered as a single state for the purpose of withdrawing from the EU.
“Gibraltar is part of the EU, and its withdrawal is a matter for the UK and the EU collectively, not for a separate, bilateral negotiation between the UK and Spain,” the report said.
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