Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, who holds the Brexit portfolio for Gibraltar, visited Northern Ireland recently to speak at the DUP annual conference in Belfast.
He received a standing ovation for his speech, during which he told delegates: “You continue to be among the staunchest supporters of the right of the people of Gibraltar to determine our own future and among the most passionate defenders of our choice to remain British.”
Dr Garcia reminded the conference of the inclusion of a possible Spanish veto on matters concerning Gibraltar under Clause 24 of the EU Council's negotiating guidelines, describing in detail the political storm this news had caused in the United Kingdom and the cross-party expressions of sympathy and support for Gibraltar which had been received.
Dr Garcia also explained the background to the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum and how 99 per cent of the people voted to remain British, with only 44 voters choosing to join Spain. “We made it very clear that our birthright was not for sale,” he said.
He then explained the historical connection between Gibraltar and Northern Ireland and the wartime evacuation there of Gibraltarians during the Second World War.
The Deputy Chief Minister told delegates that there was value in Gibraltar and Northern Ireland continuing to meet “to share information, to expand our mutual understanding and to discuss the way forward in the face of the challenges thrust upon us by the decision to leave the European Union.”
He also talked about the very relevant discussions surrounding the land borders which both Gibraltar and Northern Ireland will share with the EU post-Brexit.
Ministerial Council meeting
Another minister, John Cortes, was also representing the Gibraltar government this week, this time in London at the Joint Ministerial Council of the Overseas Territories, which was hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at Lancaster House.
The two-day event included a briefing by the UK's Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and sessions attended by UK government ministers and chaired by the Overseas Territories Minister, Lord Ahmad.
Other UK Ministers attending specific sessions at the Joint Ministerial Council included Secretary of State for Development, Penny Mordaunt, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, Minister for Climate Change, Claire Perry, and Minister of State for DfID, Lord Bates.