Gibraltar city centre was filled with red and white on Sunday as the people dressed in their traditional colours and celebrated not only their National Day but also 50 years since the first referendum took place on whether to remain British or accept Spanish sovereignty.
September 10th is always an emotional day for Gibraltarians, but it was especially intense this year with over 3,000 people packing into Casemates Square for the traditional political rally at midday, attended by a cross-party group of British MPs who support Gibraltar and its right to self-determination.
In this special year it was only to be expected that there would be some surprises in store, and perhaps the biggest was a video message from British prime minister Theresa May, broadcast on large screens, confirming that Britain will stand by Gibraltar for as long as its people wish to remain British. “50 years on, Gibraltar and the UK are closer than ever before… We will resolutely safeguard Gibraltar, its people and its economy and Gibraltar will remain British for as long as it chooses to do so,” she said to massive applause.
Although the prime minister was not able to give her speech in person, Europe minister Sir Alan Duncan did attend the National Day event and reiterated the British government’s commitment to supporting Gibraltar.
He is no stranger to the Rock and its problems, having lived there as a child in the 1960s when his father, who was an officer in the RAF, was based there. Sir Alan has had regular meetings in London with Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, and deputy chief minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, and is well aware of the challenges Gibraltar faces as a result of Brexit.
That, however, was the serious side of Sunday. Gibraltar certainly knows how to party and the remainder of the day, from early in the morning until late at night, was a celebration in every sense of the word. There was music, dancing, confetti, rose petals, fun-filled activities for all the family, a sense of togetherness and harmonious coexistence, hope for the future and a determination to overcome whatever problems Brexit and Spain’s wish for sovereignty may hold.