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National Day in Gibraltar on 10 September

National Day usually is the biggest day in the Gibraltar calendar.
National Day usually is the biggest day in the Gibraltar calendar. / SUR
  • This is a day of huge celebration, commemorating the 1967 referendum and right to self-determination, but Covid has stopped the party again this year

September 10th is a red-letter day in the Gibraltar calendar as it is National Day, and indeed Gibraltar itself normally turns red and white as the population dress in the national colours for the annual celebrations.

This year, like 2020, these celebrations will be muted because of the coronavirus pandemic. There will be no political rally in Casemates Square, no crowds, no live music and dance performances, no huge parties, as the entertainment will all be televised, but one thing will remain the same as every year: the Gibraltarians' determination to remain British.

This is highlighted in chief minister Fabian Picardo's National Day message, a copy of which was released to the press on Thursday. In it, he refers to the negotiations regarding Gibraltar's future relationship with the European Union, and also to the referendum held on 10 September 1967 when the people of Gibraltar made it very clear that they wanted to stay British and accept no control from Spain.

"On the 10th September 1967 we made a choice. We chose to remain British. And today we commemorate and celebrate that choice. In the same way as our forefathers said then, we are clear. This land is our land. The soil of Gibraltar belongs to no one but the people of Gibraltar. The soil of Gibraltar will belong to no one but the people of Gibraltar. No one but the Gibraltarians will decide the future of this, our land. And we will never make or permit any concessions on our sovereignty. We will preserve and maintain full jurisdiction and control over our land and every part of our sea and air. That is not just our position. It is the position of the United Kingdom too. And in the months to come we - alongside the UK - will negotiate commercial and immigration arrangements with the EU which will not impinge on sovereignty in any way. We will negotiate a future treaty that we will agree only if it is in keeping with the New Year's Eve Agreement. And we will be clear in that negotiation: Only we will decide who enters or does not enter Gibraltar. We will never cede that decision making power to anyone," the message reads.

The reference to the Gibraltar authorities deciding who enters or does not enter is a bone of contention in the EU's draft negotiating mandate for the forthcoming talks. Under the New Year's Eve agreement-in-principle, which forms the negotiating position of Gibraltar, UK and Spain, if Gibraltar is granted access to the Schengen area, the Schengen border would be manned by the EU's Frontex force and the information sent remotely to Spain, which is officially responsible for control of that border. This is because the Gibraltar government made it very clear that it would never accept Spanish security forces on its territory.

However, when the EU's draft negotiating mandate was published, it said that Spanish officers would control the border, which would be at Gibraltar airport and port, which Gibraltar and UK insist is completely unacceptable.

Land border

If a treaty can be agreed - and Picardo insists that he is still optimistic that it can - the land border between Gibraltar and Spain would be abolished, but anyone arriving in Gibraltar by air or sea will pass through a control manned by the Gibraltar Borders Agency, exactly as they do at present, before reaching the Schengen control.

The Gibraltar government has always been clear that these negotiations will not be easy, but for one day at least, Friday 10 September, the mood will be lighter as Gibraltarians young and old celebrate who they are and their love for the very special place in which they live.

And as Picardo also said as he concluded his message: "See you in Casemates in 2022, the 55th anniversary of the referendum."