Pro EU Gibraltar must not be used as a “bargaining chip” during Brexit negotiations, govt warned

Gibraltar’s sovereignty and EU border access must not be used as a “bargaining chip” during the Brexit negotiations, the government has been warned.

During a House of Lords debate over the British territory’s future once the UK leaves the EU, peers insisted that the government needs to head off Spanish attempts to claim Gibraltar as its own.

Peers also called for the border between Spain and Gibraltar to be “as free flowing as possible” after Brexit, so that headland’s economy is not disrupted.

The debate centred on a report by the Lords EU committee which stated that the UK has a “moral duty” to represent Gibraltar’s interests during the two year negotiations.

With 40 percent of Gibraltar’s workforce crossing to Spain daily, leaving the single market would cause significant disruption to the local economy, the report warned.

Gibraltar voted 95.6 percent to remain in the EU and because of this Westminster is duty bound to ensure that the territory’s voice is heard during the talks, peers said.

Speaking during the debate, Lord Boswell Aynho said: “On one key issue no compromise is possible.

“The government has made a commitment never to enter into sovereignty discussions against the will of the Gibraltarian people.

“The United Kingdom government needs to be alert to any attempts by Spain to advance territorial claims over Gibraltar.

“Our view is that the United Kingdom government has a unique moral responsibility to ensure that Gibraltar’s voice is heard and its interests respected as we approach Brexit and beyond.”

The debate was attended by Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo.

The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Rev Nick Baines, said he wanted assurances that the government was “stress-testing” Brexit scenarios for Gibraltar, including Spain’s potential use of sovereignty and border access as a “bargaining chip.”

Gibraltar freeman and Labour peer, Lord Hoyle, said: “The people of Gibraltar have always been good friends of this country. We must not let them down in our negotiations in relation to Brexit.”

Baroness Goldie said the government would stand by “Gibraltar and it’s people” and would work to ensure a “well-functioning” border between the territory and Spain.

Independent crossbencher, Baroness Butless-Sloss, said: “It’s abundantly clear that during the Brexit negotiations and post-Brexit we must publicly and effectively support Gibraltar in all the necessary situations which may arise, including continuing threats from Spain.

“The government has promised again and again to do so and it must carry out its promise.”