Labour 'unequivocally committed' to Gibraltar, Thornberry says
Labour is “unequivocally committed” to protecting the British sovereignty of Gibraltar, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said during a surprise visit to the Rock.
Mrs Thornberry was shown around Gibraltar International Airport and the frontier by Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, on the back of a long standing promise.
Her visit comes as the Labour Party drafts its manifesto ahead of the snap election held on June 8.
Mrs Thornberry also met with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Attorney General Michael Llamas, Leader of the Opposition Daniel Feetham, the Minister for Economic Development Joe Bossano, Independent MP Marlene Hassan-Nahon and Unite the Union.
“I have been delighted to spend this time with Chief Minister Picardo and members of his Cabinet. Ahead of the General Election in June, I have reinforced to them that the Labour Party remains unequivocally committed to protecting the sovereignty of Gibraltar and the right of its people to self-determination,” she said.
“We are also determined to protect Gibraltar's economy and ensure that its government can continue to create jobs and prosperity in the years to come.”
She added: “Gibraltar is a great place and Brexit is a heck of a challenge, but with a government as good at lobbying than your government is I think you’re going to be alright.”
Having touched down on the Rock the night before Mrs Thornberry told the Chronicle the Airport had become a “monument to silliness” of the Spanish refusal to co-operate with the Rock.
“It is of course striking to walk down into a corridor in the airport and walk into a dead end and how unfortunate that is really,” Mrs Thornberry said.
“As I say, not just for Gibraltar but for the people of Andalucia, how great it would be for them to have another airport.”
“This is a little bit of a monument to silliness. A big airport like this that just stops. It is so unfortunate and politicians need to step up and sort this out.”
For Mrs Thornberry the visit proved a lesson in understanding Gibraltar’s “complicated economy” and what impact pressures at the border could have.
“The biggest concern at the moment seems to be what would happen if difficulties began arise on the border,” she said.
“I am not saying any more than that. But people in Gibraltar know that the flow of people and goods ebbs and flows it can be more difficult sometimes than other times and that’s no good for Gibraltar, but it is also frankly no good for the region.”
She added good trade was “obviously in the interests of everyone” and should not be comprised.
“We need to make sure that everyone concerned in these negotiations remains calm and thinks about what’s in the long term interest of us all and certainly as a British politician it is my view that it is absolutely in the interests of Britain and Gibraltar, that Gibraltar remains a strong economy with a fluid border that is able to face the future with confidence despite the fact that we are leaving the European Union.”
When asked whether Gibraltar has been included in any of the Labour Party’s electoral commitments Mrs Tornberry said the Party is in the “process of drafting the manifesto”.
In a press release Mr Picardo said it has been a pleasure to welcome Mrs Thornberry who had always shown a “deep commitment” to the Rock.
“She is a good friend and a defender of Gibraltar in Parliament in her role as Shadow Foreign Secretary,” Mr Picardo said.
“Her visit, even during this election period, demonstrates her deep commitment and that of her party, to the people of Gibraltar and our right to determine our own future.”
During Mrs Thornberry’s tour of the border Dr Garcia explained the different layers of the local economy and emphasised the importance of frontier fluidity.
“There is nothing like visiting Gibraltar in order to obtain a full understanding of the situation here,” Dr Garcia said.
“This is part of the strategy of the Government to engage with Opposition parties in the United Kingdom, as well as with the Government.”
Opposition leader Daniel Feetham said Mrs Thornberry was well briefed on the key issues affecting Gibraltar as a consequence of Brexit, describing her as “clearly a friend” of the Rock.
“We are grateful to Mrs Thornberry for taking time out from her schedule in the middle of the UK General Election campaign to better understand the concerns of Gibraltar and convey her party's solidarity with the people of Gibraltar,” he said.
“The GSD made it clear, however, as it will in its own lobbying of all UK Members of Parliament and political parties, that it expects a UK Government of whatever political persuasion to ensure Gibraltar is included within any agreement reached with the EU and that it protects Gibraltar's interests in respect of the border.”