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UK underlines 'firm commitment to protect Gibraltar' during virtual meeting between Raab and Gonzalez Laya

Johnny Bugeja

The UK on Thursday underscored its "firm commitment" commitment to securing a deal for the Rock's future relationship with the European Union that "protect's Gibraltar, its people and its economy".

The position was expressed during a virtual meeting between UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and his Spanish counterpart, Arancha González Laya, ahead of her visit to London in the coming days.

The focus of the talks was the UK and Spain’s bilateral relations, including movement between the two countries against the backdrop of the Covid-19 public health crisis.

But the discussion also touched on Brexit, including Gibraltar’s future relations with the EU and its nearest neighbour Spain.

“The UK-Spain partnership is one of our most enduring,” Mr Raab tweeted.

“Thank you @AranchaGlezLaya for a valuable discussion on how [UK and Spain] are working together with Gibraltar to ensure our future relationship with the EU is also in the best interests of the people of Gibraltar and the region.”

Mr Raab's tweet, which used the UK and Spanish flags in reference to both countries, was later re-tweeted by Mrs González Laya from her own Twitter account.

But it drew a stinging reaction from Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition.

“Would have hoped the FCO would have learned in 2002 after failed #JointSovereignty the sensitivity of the UK-Spain flags being in the same sentence as #Gibraltar,” Mr Azopardi tweeted.

“Also it isn’t our “interests” that need looking after. They (both) need to respect our #Wishes. #SelfDetermination”

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office spokesperson added: "The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke to Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González-Laya today to discuss the UK and Gibraltar’s future relationship with the European Union and the fight against Covid-19."

"On Gibraltar, it was agreed that the UK, the Government of Gibraltar and Spain will continue working constructively to find a solution in order to ensure ongoing prosperity in the region."

"The Foreign Secretary reiterated the UK’s firm commitment to finding a solution that protects Gibraltar, its people and its economy."

"On Covid-19, the Foreign Secretary welcomed Spain’s contribution to COVAX, the international scheme for ensuring equitable access to vaccines."

Spain’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs also confirmed the virtual meeting on Thursday and the issues discussed.

“In respect of bilateral relations, González Laya and Raab expressed their desire to intensify bilateral relations between Spain and the United Kingdom, dialogue on security and defence, economic issues and matters linked to citizens,” the Spanish ministry said in a statement.

“They also discussed Brexit, and in particular in relation to Gibraltar with a view to reaching a solution that is satisfactory to the parties.”

In a statement, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo welcomed the conversation between the Foreign
Secretary and Mrs Gonzalez Laya.

"This follows a long discussion between the Chief Minister and the Foreign Secretary earlier this
week and reflects the commitment of Gibraltar, with the support of the United Kingdom, to secure
an agreement between the parties for the future relationship of Gibraltar with the European Union
and with our nearest EU neighbour, Spain," No.6 Convent Place said.

"The Government continues to work solidly to arrive at such an agreement within our well known
red lines."