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Brexit

Gibraltarians urged to sign Brexit petition ahead of critical day in the Commons

An anti-Brexit demonstrator holds a placard outside the Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London, Britain, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Gibraltar’s political leaders have urged the community to sign a fast-growing petition calling on the UK Government to revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit.

The call came as MPs in the UK take part in a series of paper ballots today in a bid to work out what kind of Brexit has a chance of winning the support of the House of Commons.

MPs must put forward their preferred options yesterday, with Commons Speaker John Bercow selecting those to be put to a series of indicative Yes-or-No votes over the course of half an hour the following evening.

Further debate and votes on the most popular alternatives will be staged on Monday to try to whittle the list down.

Shortly before the votes, Prime Minister Theresa May will face Tory MPs at a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee as she battles to save her premiership and her Brexit deal.

It was unclear whether the UK Government would table Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement as one of the options for Wednesday night's votes, when options on the table may include a no-deal departure, a Norway-style close relationship with the EU or halting Brexit by revoking the Article 50 process.

On Monday, MPs will debate a petition calling for Brexit to be halted by revoking the UK's withdrawal letter under Article 50 of the EU treaties.

The Commons Petitions Committee said that the petition, which passed 5.75 million signatures on Tuesday evening – including 4,472 people in Gibraltar - had received more support than any other in the history of the parliamentary website. The debate will take place in the Commons' secondary chamber Westminster Hall.

The developments, as always, were being closely monitored in Gibraltar.

"It is remarkable to think that, with days left for the original date of Brexit this Friday, we are still no closer to knowing the final outcome of what the British Parliament will decide should be the shape of the UnitedKingdom's departure from the European Union,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

“In any other context, this result would be considered unacceptable.”

Mr Picardo insisted that the Gibraltar Government had “a plan for every eventuality”, adding that he and his team were in contact with UK minister to ensure Gibraltar was not caught by surprise by any outcome.

“We are ready to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, we are ready to deal with the fall out of a 'no deal' exit and we are hopeful for a potential, although as yet unlikely, revocation of the Article 50 notification, a further referendum and the option of remaining in the EU,” he said.

“As I told our own parliament [on Monday], the 3Rs of 'Revoke, Referendum and Remain would be the best options for us.”

The Chief Minister said he had signed a petition for the revocation of Article 50 that had garnered nearly six million signatures in just a few days. He had also put a link to the petition on his social media pages.

“I invite both remainers and leavers to unite and join with me in signing the petition to take back control of Brexit and then determine the best way forward,” he said.

“I continue to back remain or - if we must leave - that we should leave on the basis of the deal we have negotiated and which protects Gibraltar's interests."

OPPOSITION

Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the GSD, also urged Gibraltarians to sign the online petition.

“This now paves the way for the House of Commons to consider options beyond simply voting on the flawed Withdrawal Agreement,” he said.

“We very much hope that an option emerges that protects Gibraltar’s fundamental interests.”

“The single-track approach of the UK Government of doggedly pursuing a future that ditches freedom of movement and single market access does not work for Gibraltar’s long-term interests.”

“To break the current political deadlock we would be best served by a revocation of Article 50 or an agreement to hold a second referendum with the options being the acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreement or remaining in the EU.”

“We need to do what we can towards that outcome and we recommend that everyone in Gibraltar signs the revoke Article 50 petition which presently already stands at 5.7M.”

“As a community we need to speak loudly on this issue and this is a good way to do so.”

“There is still time to avoid the Brexit cliff edge.”

Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon, who leads the Together Gibraltar party, also reacted to the latest developments and urged the community to sign the petition.

“The Brexit story takes a new twist and ironically lands us, as Sir Keir Starmer said in parliament, where we should have been two years ago: consulting the House of Commons for a unified approach before setting out to Brussels to negotiate,” she said.

“Here in Gibraltar we'll continue to do what we can to nudge things in our favour, by taking whatever opportunity we can to steer our parliamentary colleagues in the UK in a direction which benefits Gibraltar, and convincing as many people as we can to sign the petition to revoke article 50.”

MAIN PHOTO: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis