Labour’s commitment to Gibraltar is ‘unshakable’, conference reception told
The UK’s commitment to Gibraltar would be “unshakable” under a Labour Government that would also defend the right of the Gibraltarians to decide their own future, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Catherine West, said on Monday.
Ms West was speaking at the Gibraltar Government’s reception at the Labour Party conference, standing in for Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development Stephen Doughty who had been due to speak but pulled out after testing positive for Covid-19.
Ms West said Labour’s shadow team had been working with the GSLP/Liberal administration “hand in hand as great friends” on details of Brexit as it affects the Rock, adding “we know that there is a deal about to be signed off in its entirety”.
And she said Labour wanted to “reinvigorate” the UK’s relationship with Gibraltar and other UK overseas territories.
“We believe in devolution and in autonomy and recognising the strength of Gibraltar's democratic institutions and traditions, knowing very well that every single poll in the last decades has shown the close connection of Gibraltarians as British citizens,” she said.
“So we're clear that there can be no change regarding sovereignty against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar.”
“We must continue developing our partnership of respect and open dialogue when it comes to the rights and responsibilities of our global British family.”
“Labour is also committed to ensuring Gibraltar can remain economically secure, ensuring it has a level playing field.”
“We also support the efforts to secure the UK/Spain/EU agreement that works for Gibraltar and its people, first and foremost, because we know that the distinctive and proud place that Gibraltar has in British history remains central to our global influence and its significance with our armed services.”
“And it is integral to keep the UK and our NATO allies secure at a time of such profound global uncertainty.”
The reception also heard from Gibraltar’s man in London, Dominique Searle, who conveyed apologies from Gibraltar’s caretaker ministers unable to attend the event because of the general election.
Mr Searle reflected on the process of the Brexit negotiations and said it was “very important” that Labour had signalled its desire for positive relations with the EU.
“But I've got to be clear that we can't be romantic about that, because we're out and Spain will always have an element of greater veto than it had before and will make life difficult for us,” he said.
“So we do need your support.”
He reflected too on the political uncertainty in Spain after last July’s inconclusive general election and said that while Mr Sanchez’ government had not given up on its sovereignty aspirations, it had made “very, very clearly that it puts people first”.
“And that is a very important part of the hope that we will get what we need.”
And he ended on this note: “People in Gibraltar choose freely to be British and that's what we're going to be.”