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Europe Minister signals ‘unbreakable’ bond with UK as he lands in Gibraltar

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia brief Leo Docherty, the UK Minister for Europe, during a visit to the air terminal after he landed in Gibraltar on Monday. Screengrab taken from a video issued by the Gibraltar Government.

The UK Minister for Europe, Leo Docherty, sent a clear message on the Rock’s “unbreakable” bond with Britain just minutes after landing in Gibraltar on Monday at the start of a two-day visit to discuss ongoing treaty talks.

Mr Docherty was writing on Twitter and posted an image of himself on the runway with the Rock as a backdrop.

“I’m thrilled to be in Gibraltar, an important part of the UK family,” he wrote.

“Our shared history dates back over 300 years, and our bond remains unbreakable.”

From the plane it was straight to work, with the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, guiding Mr Docherty around the airport and air terminal to explain how Gibraltar and Schengen immigration controls might work in the event of a treaty.

The Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, then accompanied Mr Docherty to view the vehicular entrance and exit points at the border, where he outlined plans for the extension to the pedestrian entry point with the installation of e-gates as part of the preparations in the event no deal is possible.

Mr Docherty, who also visited the Gibraltar Squadron on Monday, was scheduled to dine with the Chief Minister and his team in No.6 Convent Place ahead of further meetings today before he returns to the UK this evening.

Mr Docherty will also be meeting the Minister for Economic Development, Sir Joe Bossano, and the Minister for Financial and Digital Services, Albert Isola.

“I look forward to meeting with the Minister for Europe and thank him for taking the time to visit Gibraltar,” Mr Picardo said when the visit was confirmed on Sunday.

“He is a great friend of Gibraltar and has been working closely with us on all aspects of the UK-EU Gibraltar negotiations.”

Mr Docherty, who was previously Minister for Defence People and Parliamentary Secretary (Minister for Defence People and Veterans) before that, is a former soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His visit comes shortly after James Cleverly, the UK Foreign Secretary, and his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Albares, discussed Gibraltar in a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the annual British/Spanish Tertulias forum in Oxford.

Their discussion was wide-ranging but touched on Gibraltar just days after Spain told the United Nations it wanted to develop “an area of social and economic prosperity” covering Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar based on the New Year’s Eve agreement.

Mr Docherty was also at the Tertulias forum, where he met with his counterpart Pascual Navarro.

After the meeting, Mr Cleverly tweeted: “We spoke about working together to create security, prosperity and opportunities for our people.”

“I reiterated the UK’s commitment to reaching a UK-EU Gibraltar agreement that works for all in the region.”

Mr Albares also took to Twitter with images of the meeting and a similar sentiment, though without specific reference to Gibraltar.

“We have addressed the strategic bilateral relations between Spain and the United Kingdom,” Mr Albares tweeted.

“We want a mutually beneficial relationship for our citizens.”

The Gibraltar Government was not present at the meeting or in the Tertulias forum but said it had worked closely with the UK Government to prepare the Gibraltar aspects.

“The Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister worked closely with the Foreign Secretary and his team in the preparation for the Gibraltar aspects of the meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Albares, which was on a range of UK/Spain issues,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“The meeting was a timely opportunity to reiterate the UK's and Gibraltar’s commitment to reaching a UK-EU Gibraltar agreement that works for all in the region.”

Last week the Attorney General, in a speech during the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year, revealed the ninth formal round of talks had taken place just two days earlier in London.

Mr Llamas said negotiators had made “tremendous progress” to date but that a “limited number of difficult issues” remain unresolved.

He said the talks were “intense”.

“Not only because of the numerous subject matters that are being discussed, and their individual, massive complexities, but also because the political and legal positions of three different governments and of the European Union have to be taken into account and respected,” Mr Llamas said.

“Tremendous progress has been made over a vast range of issues in the last 12 months, including in relation to the vital issue of border fluidity and our future relationship with the Schengen Area.”

“A limited number of difficult issues remain, but we continue to work on them with determination and imagination.”

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