Saturday, 31 Oct 2020

Historic moment for Gibraltar as huge support for Rock witness in landmark gesture

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For the first time in history, the four political leaders in the UK wished the Rock a happy National Day. Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster and Mark Drakeford all sent individual messages of support.

Mr Johnson said: “The past few months have been difficult for all of us and it’s sadly clear that this awful virus is not yet done with us or with Gibraltar so far.

“We’ve been working with the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, who’s done an absolutely stellar job this year to make sure you have the medical supplies you need to keep your people health and the financial security you need to keep your economy running.”

Scotland’s First Minister Ms Sturgeon added in her own message: “I can assure you that, as we face the challenges of the months ahead, Scotland will continue to work in that spirit of cooperation and internationalism.

“I know that Scotland and Gibraltar will continue to enjoy a close friendship in the future and I hope that, despite the circumstances, you all have an enjoyable and safe Gibraltar National Day.”

Mr Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, said he looked forward to welcoming students from the Rock who come to study at Welsh universities.

DUP leader Ms Foster said: “It’s clear to me that we share the same strength of character power by resilience, energy and determination.

“Let me wish your Chief Minister and friend Fabian, and indeed all of you and the most beautiful part of the world, a very safe and happy Gibraltar National Day.

“I look forward to being with you again very soon.”

Secretary of State Dominic Raab also paid respect for the Rock on their National Day.

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory but is also the subject of a territorial claim by Spain.

It was captured in 1704 and by 1713 the Spanish Crown formally ceded the territory to the British Crown.

Spain attempted to recapture the territory twice.

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It was a subject of contention during the divorce talks where the Spanish government was accused of using Brexit to snatch back the territory.

Since the UK formally left the European Union in January, the issue of Gibraltar has resurfaced.

Under the terms of the UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, Spain has a veto over Gibraltar benefiting from any future trade and security agreement between the Government and Brussels.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said the issue regarding Gibraltar would be better handled with a deal in place.

Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo insisted the Rock could “easily” strike a deal with the EU if David Frost and Michel Barnier fail to reach an agreement.

Mr Picardo told the Gibraltar Chronicle: “The legalities are easy. 

“The law is there to create the agreement that each relevant party wishes and the existing treaty obligations permit.

“There is nothing insurmountable for Gibraltar in that respect and in keeping with our red lines.

“But if we are in that territory, what is complex to start with will become devilishly difficult in some respects.”

Mr Picardo also rejected claims Spain was trying to drive a wedge between the Rock and the UK.

He continued: “It may be surprising for us to see Spain engage positively with us, but we should not be afraid of that, although we need to be totally vigilant to ensure that there is nothing in the detail of the deal that can be negative for us.”

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