We look forward to working with the next Spanish Government to enhance the prosperity of Gibraltar and, indeed, the neighbouring regions of Spain. Whichever Government are in office in Spain, we will remain steadfast in our support for Gibraltar and will not discuss or agree any proposals that compromise British sovereignty.
Given the recent attempts by the Spanish Government, with the backing of others in the EU, to exploit the Brexit negotiations with illegitimate sovereignty claims, can the Minister reassure the House that, whatever the political developments in Spain, the UK or the EU, we will categorically reject any attempt to erode UK sovereignty over the Rock?
Yes, I can give that assurance. Indeed, we completely disagree with the language that has been put into recent EU documents describing Gibraltar as a “colony.” Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family and has mature and modern constitutional relationships with the United Kingdom.
Last year I had the opportunity to visit Gibraltar with the armed forces parliamentary scheme, which made me very aware of Spain’s dependence on Gibraltar for job opportunities and economic interactions. Has the Minister had the opportunity to remind Spain of the importance to it of Gibraltar’s economy?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point out that this is a symbiotic relationship with mutual benefits. If one side tries to do harm to the other, both will find themselves harmed. I hope that the good relationships—economic, tourist access and everything else—can continue harmoniously once we have left the European Union.
So illustrious is the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) that, in addition to chairing with distinction the Select Committee on Justice, he also chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Gibraltar. His burden is a heavy one, and he should be heard.
I am deeply flattered and touched, Mr Speaker. For completeness, I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
I know that the people and Government of Gibraltar will very much welcome the firm commitment of my right hon. Friend the Minister to our continuing support for British sovereignty. Will he also confirm that, whatever form of government is arranged in Spain after the elections, we will stress that it is in the interests of Spain, Gibraltar and the United Kingdom that we depart from the European Union in an orderly fashion that preserves the free flow of goods and people across the border and our strong economic ties? That will be to the advantage of all sides. A deal is necessary for Gibraltar’s sake, as it is for the sake of Spain and the UK.
Yes, indeed. My hon. Friend does an excellent job as chairman of the all-party group. Indeed, we were in Gibraltar together for its national day, thus allowing me to be the second shortest Member of Parliament attending the events. As he rightly says, I hope that the good relationship between Gibraltar and Spain can continue after Brexit, to the advantage of everybody.
Of course, SNP Members very much support the right of the people of Gibraltar to self-determination. Their sovereignty should rest with them—and the sovereignty of the people of the Chagos Islands should rest with them. What conversations is the Minister having with other EU states to ensure that Gibraltar is not left behind in the carving out of any deal?
We very strongly defend Gibraltar’s rights—indeed, I work closely and personally with Fabian Picardo, the Chief Minister, and his excellent team. Through the Department for Exiting the European Union, regular meetings take place and we make sure we fully defend Gibraltar’s interests. I can happily and readily give the hon. Lady the assurance she is seeking that we will not let it down.