Britain will not let Spain use Brexit to bully the people of Gibraltar
I was not particularly surprised when I saw the guidelines issued by the European Union. For years, I have been campaigning for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union because it is unable to function effectively and democratically. By giving Spain the ability to veto whether any future deal includes Gibraltar, the EU has shown the world how very weak it is.
Instead of standing up to Spain’s advances against self-determination and respecting Gibraltar as a sovereign territory, it has chosen the easy route out to make internal negotiations and negotiation with the United Kingdom easier. This is utterly typical of the EU and only shows why we voted to leave in the first place.
The "Rock of Gibraltar" attracts tourists who contribute heavily to the economies of both Gibraltar and the local Spanish economy. Indeed, the Gibraltarian economy is so vibrant that it contributes around half a billion Euros per year to the local Spanish economy and has the third highest GDP per capita of any territory in the world. However, like the behaviour of Spain and the European Union, I am not surprised by this.
Anyone who has been to Gibraltar will realise the ingenuity of the people there. This is a small territory of around 30,000 people who produce their own electricity, has recently constructed a yacht haven, have an airport and military base, a world heritage site, the most southern mosque in Europe, and more. Such achievement is hard to challenge and I strongly encourage everyone to visit.
One of the other wonderful reasons to visit is just how at home you’ll feel there – and I don’t just mean the red telephone boxes and Union Jack bunting. I last went in September 2016 to see their National Day, a day during which they celebrate their right to self-determination. On the day everyone dresses in Gibraltar’s national colours of red and white, hang the British flag out of their windows and hold a vast political rally in support of their strong ties with the United Kingdom.
These ties are not to be underestimated. Like us, they celebrate our institutions such as the Monarchy and our democracy, whilst upholding our British values. In doing so they are a colourful and triumphant example of how successful British culture is at home and abroad and it can only be to the detriment of the European Union for the world’s eyes to have been drawn to such a successful and vibrant place.
The issues surrounding the governance of Gibraltar do not stem from London or Gibraltar; they stem from Spain. It is Madrid that continues to talk about the status of the Rock, despite the fact that the people of Gibraltar have voted twice to remain British, each time to the tune of 99 per cent. It is for this reason that Spain has no right to independently decide whether any future UK – EU deal extends to Gibraltar.
Excluding Gibraltar in any agreement would be a reckless and selfish act of bullying a small and peaceful people and the United Kingdom simply will not allow this. An agreement not including Gibraltar is no agreement and the UK Government must make sure that this is made clear from the beginning.
Andrew Rosindell is Conservative MP for Romford and member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee