The chief minister of Gibraltar yesterday gave UK Parliamentarians an impassioned explanation of Gibraltarian loyalty to Great Britain, drawing applause at one point with a reference to the territory’s famous “rock” as being – like him – “red, white and blue, inside out”, something that, he added, “we will never, ever countenance changing”.
Chief minister Fabian Picardo’s remarks came during a two-hour appearance before the House of Commons’ Brexit Select Committee, during which he explained why Gibraltarians felt remaining close to the UK was so crucial. This loyalty, he told them, was undimmed by the fact that Gibraltar will have to give up its EU membership in order to remain tied to the UK; or by Spain’s offers to share sovereignty over Gibraltar with the UK – which he noted that Gibraltarians didn’t regard as in any way desirable or, as Spanish politicians have suggested, “generous”.
“This is the generosity of the predator that thinks that its prey is finally prone, and it’s going to take the price it’s been seeking to extract for the past 300 years,” Picardo told the House of Commons committee members.
“Neither the people of the UK nor the people of Gibraltar are a prey that is on its knees, seeking any generous offer from the people of Spain.”
Ninety-six percent of Gibraltarians voted in favour of remaining in the EU during the UK’s referendum last June.
In a separate development, Spain’s foreign minister,Alfonso Dastis Quecedo, is quoted in the Financial Times today as saying that in his personal opinion at least, Spain doesn’t intend to “put Gibraltar at the centre of [Brexit] negotiations”.
“The situation is actually very clear, and there is nothing for us to ask for: The UK leaves the EU, and Gibraltar leaves the EU. If Gibraltar wants to make a life outside the EU, they are perfectly free to do so.”
90% of financial services business
In his testimony, Picardo explained that 90% of Gibraltar’s financial services revenues come from the UK, and that given such statistics, the territory would go to considerable lengths to remain as close a trading partner with it as possible.
“If we are able, through what is in the bilateral gift of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, to preserve 90% of our business, then we are in a much better place than we might have been, were that not assured by the United Kingdom – as it was not previously, but is now,” he said.
As for Spain, and its long-undisguised interest in obtaining sovereignty over Gibraltar, Picardo – who told MPs that he, like many Gibraltarians, has Spanish ancestry, in his case a grandmother who had been “the only one of my grandparents that I knew” – said he had given up hoping for Spanish good will in connection with the ending of Britain’s membership in the EU.
Nevertheless, he went on, Gibraltar would continue to work towards achieving the best result possible for people on both sides of the border, which he said included ensuring that the border between the two remained open.
“Anybody who thinks…that we [Gibraltarians] ‘hate the Spanish’ doesn’t understand the make-up of the Gibraltarian,” he said.
“When you’re born something, that’s what you are.
“When you look at that context and that make-up, it’s impossible to be anything other than what you are.
“We are born British, and that rock is red, white and blue for us.”
As reported, Picardo also gave testimony on the Brexit issues in December, before the House of Lords’ Brexit Select Committee. In a report presented as supplementary written evidence to that committee and published on the Houses of Parliment’s website, Picardo warned that nearly half of all “employee jobs” in Gibraltar would be put at risk by a “hard border”, if such were the result of the UK’s departure from the EU.
To see a video of excerpts of chief minister Picardo’s testimony yesterday, as filmed by the Gibraltar Broadcast Corporation, click below.
To see an exclusive interview chief minister Picardo gave to International Investment on Tuesday at Gibraltar House in London, on the subject of Brexit and Gibraltar’s ongoing relationship with the UK, EU and Spain, click here.