UK/EU treaty must respect ‘decisions and choices’ of Gibraltarians, Cleverly says
The UK will only sign up to a treaty for Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations with the EU if it respects the “decisions and choices” of the Gibraltarian people and their desire to remain British, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Sunday.
Speaking at the Gibraltar reception in the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Mr Cleverly vowed too that Gibraltar “…will always have the support of a Conservative government when you choose your own destiny.”
Mr Cleverly, who visited Gibraltar recently for national day on a private – yet visible – trip with his family, said the Rock was “buzzing” as he reflected on the treaty talks during an address to guests.
The treaty, he said, was in the “social and economic interests” of communities on both sides of the border.
Mr Cleverly said the negotiation for a UK/EU treaty had “progressed” but was currently on hold due to the political uncertainty in Spain following the inconclusive July general election and the forthcoming October 12 vote in Gibraltar.
“It is not for me, as the UK Foreign Secretary, to comment or predict the outcome of the Spanish governmental negotiations, just as it's not my job to discuss or predict Gibraltar's forthcoming election,” he said.
“But I would let you know, and I would let the good people of Gibraltar know, that whatever combination that we have on either side of the border, we will always act with the interests of Gibraltarians at the forefront of our minds.”
“Yes, of course, we want to get a deal. We want to get a deal that works.”
“And we will only sign up to a deal that works and works for the Gibraltarian people, respects their decisions, respects their choices, respects their desire to remain part of the British family.”
“And that is why those negotiations have taken longer than any of us would like.”
“You can give stuff away really easily. That's not what I got into this job to do.”
“I got into this job to do the right things, sometimes the hard things, because it is important that we do that.”
Mr Cleverly remembered the referendum at the time of the joint sovereignty and said he would struggle to think of a "clearer or a more unambiguous answer" than the message sent by Gibraltarians who said they wanted to British.
“And we will defend that decision because we believe in self-determination and we always will,” he said.
Mr Cleverly was hosted by caretaker deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, who also addressed guests
Dr Garcia thanked the Conservatives for their “solidarity and support” and told guests “we were very close to an agreement” and that Gibraltar looked forward to resuming the talks.
He said too that he and caretaker Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who did not travel to Manchester on this occasion due to the election campaign, remained “very optimistic” about the future.
“Our objective remains to secure a UK/EU agreement about Gibraltar that does not surrender one iota of our British sovereignty,” he said.
“Gibraltar belongs only to its people and to our King.”
But he noted too that it had been his “grim task” to prepare for a “worst case” no deal scenario in which Spain “becomes difficult” and presses its sovereignty aspirations.
“But rest assured, we will never give in to that,” Dr Garcia said.
“But no agreement would mean no privilege of access for goods and people coming in through the land border with Spain, the daily support that we need to keep our economy alive.”
“We need to wait and see who forms government in Spain later this month.”
“But whatever happens, we know that with the strong support and the tireless backing of the British people, we will prevail.”