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Leaving the EU: Gibraltar

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee

What recent discussions he has had with the Government of Gibraltar on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State

I have spoken to the Chief Minister, Mr Picardo, by phone on a number of occasions in the past month and I will speak to him again later this afternoon. We have regular ministerial contact, including through the Joint Ministerial Council with Gibraltar, which has met nine times since its formation three years ago. Ministers and officials across the Government are working closely with the Government of Gibraltar in preparation for Brexit. Gibraltar is and will remain a vital part of our family, whatever the shape of our exit from the EU on 31 October.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post and his early engagement with Her Majesty’s Government over Gibraltar. Will he bear in mind and make it quite clear that we fully support Gibraltar politically and in practical terms as we leave the European Union? In particular, will he deal with the practical measures relating to the vast number of foodstuffs and the workforce that currently come across the border, which must be resolved before we leave?

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State

No one is more doughty in his championship of Gibraltar than my hon. Friend, and I am grateful for his kind words. Let me assure him—as the Prime Minister has assured the Chief Minister—that the United Kingdom will protect Gibraltar’s interests as we leave the EU. From 1967 to 2002, at all points in between and since, we have said that Gibraltar is going to remain a vital part of our family. The Government of Gibraltar are responsible for their own contingency planning, but, as I have said, the UK Government regularly speak to and meet Ministers to ensure that their robust plans are in place.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Is the Minister not aware that whether it is Gibraltar, Hong Kong or Zimbabwe, people are struggling for the rights that they thought they had and that they find common cause with people in the United Kingdom who are struggling to get the political rights that they thought they had in this country? Is it not about time that we showed as an example that we believe in parliamentary and political democracy in this House?

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State

That was quite a wide-ranging question. Let me put it to the hon. Gentleman in this way: this Government are standing up for the rights of people—the 17.5 million people of our country who voted to leave the European Union—and respecting those that did not. We will make sure that we leave—no ifs, no buts—on 31 October.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

What assurances has the Minister sought from the Spanish Government that they will respect Gibraltar’s territorial waters both before we leave and after?

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We reject and object robustly to all incursions into Gibraltarian waters. I think that since the start of this year, there have been 499 such incursions and we have made 499 objections. He can be confirmed in his belief that we will support the people of Gibraltar.

Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) (Europe)

The Minister, I believe, supports a no-deal Brexit. How will the Minister assure the people of Gibraltar that there will be no disruption of the supply of goods, including food and medicine? News about delays of four hours at the border, resulting in huge economic loss, has leaked in the Yellowhammer document. If the Minister believes that the Yellowhammer document is outdated, what is the updated solution?

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. I do not support no deal; I want a deal with the European Union that works for Britain and for Gibraltar, but I am prepared to leave with no deal if we cannot get the deal that is good for us by 31 October. We engage regularly with the Spanish Government. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to Foreign Minister Borrell very recently about this matter. As I said, I engage regularly with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar. He assures me that Gibraltar is ready. We will make sure that Gibraltar is ready and that we continue the dialogue with the Spanish Government to ensure that there is a free flow of traffic, people and goods across the border after we leave.