Only the Gibraltarians will decide the Rock’s future
By Chief Minister Fabian Picardo
On the eve of National Day 2021 I have received, through His Excellency the Governor, the congratulations and best wishes of Her Majesty the Queen.
Her Majesty notes that 2021 has been a difficult year and tells us all that she hopes we may look forward to overcoming the global health challenges and to better times in the future.
In that way, Her Majesty is reflecting the hopes and wishes of all of us in the British family of nations and, no doubt, the world.
I, certainly, cannot wait to see you all back at Casemates.
This year, we once again have to meet virtually and by video link.
But next year I have no doubt we will be back at Casemates, the home of National Day.
I know most of you will be watching from home today. Or perhaps you will be watching on your mobile from the beach or elsewhere.
So I want to say a very special hello to those watching us from hospitals in Gibraltar or abroad. To those watching from our elderly care facilities. And to those watching from Calpe House.
Wherever you are today, I know all our Gibraltarian hearts are in Gibraltar on National Day.
I know that, like me and my cabinet colleagues, so many of you are looking forward to meeting again at Casemates next year.
Because I know that the cancellation of the National Day festivities and political rally hurts us all.
What does not change is our commitment to what National Day means.
On the 10th September 1967 we made a choice. We chose to remain British.
And today we commemorate and celebrate that choice.
In the same way as our forefathers said then, we are clear. This land is our land. The soil of Gibraltar belongs to no one but the people of Gibraltar. The soil of Gibraltar will belong to no one but the people of Gibraltar. No one but the Gibraltarians will decide the future of this, our land.
And we will never make or permit any concessions on our sovereignty.
We will preserve and maintain full jurisdiction and control over our land and every part of our sea and air.
That is not just our position. It is the position of the United Kingdom too.
And in the months to come we – alongside the UK - will negotiate commercial and immigration arrangements with the EU which will not impinge on sovereignty in any way.
We will negotiate a future treaty that we will agree only if it is in keeping with the New Year’s Eve Agreement.
And we will be clear in that negotiation: Only we will decide who enters or does not enter Gibraltar.
We will never cede that decision making power to anyone.
Because there is a sacred reason why this is our land.
Because it is the burial ground of our ancestors and forefathers. It is the land that we will bequeath our children and our children’s children.
And for that reason you have my word and the word of the government I lead that we will never cede ground on the fundamentals.
And in so pledging I ask you all to remember this year the 97 who we have lost to Covid, 97 who were with us this time last year and who we lost to the pandemic despite our best efforts based on the best medical advice available.
And despite the sacrifices and inconveniences we have all endured to try to slow the spread of the disease in our community.
We will never forget those we lost. I will never forget them.
And it is with the humility inflicted on all of us by Covid that we have to face the realities of the challenges to come.
I am humble in pledging myself to work as hard as possible this coming year to ensure we emerge stronger from the treaty negotiations and from the pandemic.
But I am inspired by our great rock and the many great Gibraltarians around me.
In every field, from the arts to sports, Gibraltarians break through, internationally, all the time.
And these are the inspiration for so many of us and for our future generations.
So many generations of Gibraltarians punching above our weight and doing more and going further by dint of commitment and sheer hard work.
That is why I say every day that I believe in the Gibraltarians.
And that is why I will work every day – not just on National Day - to protect the Gibraltarians, our land and our way of life.
And to ensure that we protect our right to self-determination by ensuring that we turn the corner of Covid and Brexit and once again set our nation on a course of guaranteed self-sufficiency.
That is what we will all contribute to each day by our hard work.
And that is what will make this always: Gibraltar our own land.
Red, white and strong. Red, white and proud. Red, white and free.
Have a great National Day 2021.
See you at Casemates in 2022, the 55th anniversary of the referendum.
This is the text of a National Day address that will be broadcast on GBC tomorrow.