‘We stand with you,’ UK Lib Dem Leader tells Gibraltar, as she warns of ‘fight of our lives’ to halt Brexit
By Chronicle staff and Reuters
Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson has told the people of Gibraltar “We stand with you”, as she addressed a Gibraltar Government reception at the Lib Dem party conference.
The caretaker Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia thanked Ms Swinson for her support and praised her vision in moving the party to a policy of revoking Article 50 and remaining in the European Union in the event that they win a majority.
This is the long preferred option of the Gibraltar Government.
In his address to a packed gathering of Members of Parliament, including former leader Sir Vince Cable, Lords, MEPs and politicians, Dr Garcia added that it was unrealistic to leave a club and expect equal or better treatment than while a member.
“The best deal is to remain,” he added.
Dr Garcia said that a sensible and orderly Brexit was in the best interests of Spain as well as Gibraltar. He pointed out that there were over 15,000 people who lived in Spain and worked in Gibraltar, of whom some 9,000 were Spanish nationals.
Gibraltar purchased some 1.5 billion Euros of goods from Spain and Gibraltarians spent tens of millions of pounds annually in leisure activities across the border.
“It was clearly in Spain’s interests not to cut off her nose to spite her face,” he said.
He reiterated the point that many of those who voted to leave probably had no idea of the negative consequences and inconveniences that such a choice would thrust upon their fellow citizens.
In that context he pointed out that Gibraltarians and UK citizens would need not one but two different international driving permits in order to reach Portugal through Spain.
“We will lose advantages that have long been taken for granted. This is what it will mean to be outside the club,” he said.
In a statement the Government said its reception was extremely well attended, reflecting the high level of interest in Gibraltar. The Liberal Democrat event is the first in the UK party conference season.
Yesterday Ms Swinson acknowledged that the Liberal Democrats face the fight of their lives to rescue the country from the negative effects of leaving the EU, outlining the battle for hearts and minds in the next few weeks.
On Tuesday, the 39-year-old Scot who became the party's first female leader in July, used her closing conference speech to set out the challenge the party faces.
"Ahead of us we have the fight of our lives for the heart and soul of Britain," she said. "The next few weeks are about deciding the kind of country that we are, who we want to be."
Ms Swinson said her ambition for the party, which is gaining support but only holds 18 seats in the 650-seat parliament, knew no limits, and presented herself as a potential prime minister.
Mr Johnson wants to call an election before the next scheduled one in 2022, but has so far been blocked by opponents, including the Liberal Democrats, who say they first want to make sure he cannot take Britain out of the EU without an exit deal.
Ms Swinson attacked Johnson's exit strategy as "sickening" and warned voters not to trust his ability to strike a new deal in the next month, nor believe his assertion that a no-deal Brexit can be managed.
"The truth is you can’t plan for no-deal," she told party members in the southern English resort of Bournemouth. "Planning for no-deal is like planning to burn your house down. You might have insurance, but you’re still going to lose all your stuff."