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MPs underline UK’s commitment to treaty

The UK delegation of parliamentarians and Gibraltar’s government ministers pose for a photo after signing the National Day banner in Casemates on Friday. Photos by Johnny Bugeja. Flage photo by UK Parliament/Maria Unger

UK parliamentarians visiting the Rock for National Day underscored on Friday the importance of securing a treaty for Gibraltar’s post-Brexit future and the need to “keep the engine revving” against the backdrop of Spain’s inconclusive general election and subsequent negotiations to form government in Madrid.

Sir Bob Neill, the Conservative MP who chairs the all-party Gibraltar group in the House of Commons, said “there’s a real desire” to see a resolution to the negotiation.

Speaking after briefings with the Gibraltar Government and the business community here, he acknowledged the mounting unease as talks were “dragged out for factors outside Gibraltar’s control”.

But he acknowledged “positivity too” that a deal was possible.

“I think people want to have a deal,” he told the Chronicle.

“I think that's actually mirrored from what we find in London and I hope the other side of the border too.”

“But what I think there's real pressure on is people want to have an end to a level of uncertainty that's been dragged out for reasons not in our control, particularly by what happened in Spain with the election.”

As the Conservative MP and long-time friend of Gibraltar spoke in Casemates, the Gibraltar flag was raised outside the UK Parliament in London ahead of National Day.

Sir Bob highlighted the importance of MPs visiting Gibraltar to see for themselves the situation on the ground, adding the parliamentary group’s role was to ensure Gibraltar remained “well up the list” of priorities in London.

“I'm entirely happy that the UK Government is still in lockstep with the Government of Gibraltar on this,” he said.

“What we do have to do, though, is maintain that, keep the engine revving, if you like, whilst there's the stalling on the Spanish side.”

“And I think that's the frustration that people have.”

“But I am satisfied the UK Government position hasn't changed at all.”

“As you know, from time to time, Spain will raise fresh issues and it's important that we're able to deal with those.”

“But I'm confident that everybody knows it's in the UK's interest, Spain's interest and above all, Gibraltar's interest to get a deal.”

Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones, the Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, acknowledged the challenge faced by Gibraltar outside the EU and the uncertainty this had created.

“We're hearing it from businesses, we're hearing it from workers, hearing it from people who live here and also tourists who want to come here and enjoy Gibraltar,” she told the Chronicle after the briefings.

“So it's definitely apparent that something needs to be done.”

“And we as Parliamentarians are coming here to celebrate National Gibraltar Day, looking to do all we can back home to influence our ministers, to press on them the urgency of seeking to get this deal done, to get it over the line.”

“Obviously the political upheaval, both in Spain and in our country, hasn't helped matters, so we're also very alive to that as well, that political decisions have massive real-world consequences.”

“When people think of politics, what matters is the impact on people's lives.”

“So we're very attuned to that and we'll do all we can to speak up for Gibraltar's cause in the UK.”

Influential backbench Tory MP Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee, said the progress of talks depended in large part on post-election developments in Spain, “which is at a complicated juncture”.

But he said the UK, like Gibraltar, was keen to see the negotiations “back on track and concluded successfully in the near future”.

“I think there's a limit to what people can do at the moment, apart from giving encouragement and making sure that the other parties are fully aware of the benefits to them of having a resolution in this matter,” he told the Chronicle.

“And obviously it's of huge importance for the whole region in Andalusia as well as just the immediate vicinity of Gibraltar as well.”

“The British Government remains completely committed both to respecting the self determination of the people of Gibraltar, [and] the British sovereignty that that implies, but also completely committed to assisting in getting that arrangement for the border to work smoothly and effectively.”

Reflecting on recent delays at the border and incidents at sea, Sir Graham added: “I think it's important to be aware of the fact that that friction has happened at a time when there is a vacuum [in Spain], and it certainly seems not to be a deliberate, coordinated effort on the part of the Spanish government.”

“So I think it's important, annoying and vexatious as it may be, to try to remain calm about it and look beyond it to a point where the Spanish government will be in a position to be negotiating again and, we fervently hope, bringing a good conclusion quickly.”

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