Government leaving no stone unturned to protect Gibraltar ahead of EU departure
By Cristina Cavilla and agencies
The Gibraltar Government has vowed to leave ‘no stone unturned’ to protect the Rock ahead of its departure from the European Union as the UK Government was thrown into turmoil by the sensational resignations in quick succession of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
No. 6 Convent Place set out the defiant message in a statement yesterday evening following the dramatic double resignation of the UK cabinet ministers.
In doing so, the Gibraltar Government noted that Mr Johnson and Mr Davis have both been strong supporters of Gibraltar in Government and outside it.
“The Government have no doubt that this support will continue,” it said.
The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, has already written to Mr Johnson and Mr Davis to thank them and has also written to the new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
The Government added that it has worked hard since the referendum of June 2016 in order to drive home the priorities of Gibraltar to the United Kingdom Government and to all the political parties represented at Westminster.
“The governmental changes today will have no impact on the strong support that Gibraltar enjoys across the House,” No. 6 insisted.
Mr Picardo and the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, both explained to the Gibraltar Parliament last week the detailed and intensive work that the Government of Gibraltar continues to undertake in London.
“We are leaving no stone unturned as we prepare to leave the European Union and this will not change. Indeed, this work was acknowledged by the Opposition itself in Parliament,” No. 6 said.
The Government went on to explain that it held Brexit discussions with senior officials from the UK Government yesterday afternoon, as the two Governments continue to work closely together going forward.
Responding to the news of Mr Davis’ resignation, GSD Leader Keith Azopardi took to Twitter where he wrote: “The resignation of David Davis as Brexit Secretary marks the start of a long hot summer of uncertainty in negotiations to leave the Union.”
“Further confusion to add to the catalogue of disarray. And how has our Government secured Gibraltar’s corner specifically 24 months on?”
The departure of the two Cabinet "big beasts" came just two days after Prime Minister Theresa May secured senior ministers' agreement at Chequers for a Brexit plan about which both men had expressed reservations.
Mr Johnson's exit was announced by Downing Street moments before Mrs May faced the House of Commons to set out details of her plans.
The Prime Minister was greeted by loud cheers from Tory MPs and shouts of "resign" from the opposition benches as she arrived to deliver a statement in which she said her proposals would deliver "a Brexit that is in our national interest... the right Brexit deal for Britain".
The PM told MPs she wanted to recognise the work of the former Brexit secretary on steering through some of the "most important legislation for generations" and the "passion" that the outgoing foreign secretary had shown in promoting a "global Britain to the world".
But she said: "We do not agree about the best way of delivering our shared commitment to honour the result of the referendum."
Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns said she believed that Mrs May's time as Prime Minister was "over", telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme that she wanted a premier who would "provide true leadership and a positive post-Brexit vision for our country".
And senior backbencher Bernard Jenkin said there had been a "massive haemorrhage of trust" in Mrs May.
Asked if Brexiteers needed to put the PM's future to a vote of the Conservative Party, he replied "it may well come to that".
However, prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic backbenchers, said he had not submitted a letter of no confidence and expected Mrs May to remain at least until the official date of Brexit in March 2019.
Some 48 Tory MPs - 15% of the party's 316-strong representation in the Commons - must write to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, to trigger a no-confidence vote.
Sir Graham refused to say whether he had received any such letters.
And asked whether Mrs May would fight a no-confidence vote if one was called, a senior Number 10 source said simply: "Yes."
Mr Davis was first to go, announcing his exit just before midnight on Sunday.
But there was growing speculation about Mr Johnson's plans on Monday after he failed to attend a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee as well as a summit of Western Balkan nations being held in London.
At 3pm on Monday, a statement was issued by Downing Street to say: "This afternoon, the Prime Minister accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. His replacement will be announced shortly. The Prime Minister thanks Boris for his work."
Staunch Brexiteer Dominic Raab was named as Mr Davis's replacement as Secretary of State for Leaving the EU, and a new foreign secretary was expected to be in place by the end of the day.
There is added pressure for a swift appointment because the foreign secretary is due to join Mrs May at the Nato summit in Brussels on Wednesday and take part in the events of US President Donald Trump's visit to the UK, which begins on Thursday.
Mr Johnson was the figurehead of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, but dramatically pulled away from an expected leadership bid after losing the support of fellow minister Michael Gove.
Mrs May surprised many by appointing him to the Foreign Office, a position he has frequently used to forge a distinctive position on Brexit, including by setting out his own "red lines" just days before the PM's crucial speech to the Conservative conference last year.
He was widely reported to have told the Chequers meeting on Friday that putting a positive gloss on Mrs May's Brexit package would be like "polishing a turd", though he later joined other ministers in signing up to the package.
There was no immediate statement from Mr Johnson to explain his decision to quit, which was seized upon by opposition politicians as a sign of increasing turmoil within Mrs May's administration.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said: "Theresa May's Government is in meltdown. This is complete and utter chaos.
"The country is at a standstill with a divided and shambolic Government. The Prime Minister can't deliver Brexit and has zero authority left."
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage welcomed Mr Johnson's decision on Twitter, saying: "Bravo Boris Johnson. Now can we please get rid of the appalling Theresa May and get Brexit back on track.
"Time for Michael Gove to decide. Party or country, career or principle?"
But the leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson said Mrs May was "correct to accept the Foreign Secretary's resignation".
In a pointed message, the president of the European Council Donald Tusk appeared to suggest that the resignations could spell the end for Brexit.
"Politicians come and go but the problems they have created for people remain," said Mr Tusk.
"I can only regret that the idea of Brexit has not left with Davis and Johnson. But...who knows?"