People in Gibraltar want to have representation in the House of Commons with own MP
For almost 50 years, he and his 30,000 fellow Gibraltarians have faced Spanish aggression and humiliation; first under Franco, who closed its only land frontier, and now under the ruling Partido Popular which encourages naval incursions into sovereign waters and five-hour delays at the border crossing.
Now that the Rock is facing its greatest crisis in decades, however, it is not Spain that is on everyone’s lips, but Britain.
Mr Berllaque, 70, said: “The Spanish have been defying the British government since 1968 when the frontier was closed, and we in Gibraltar feel we’ve been left to fight this battle ourselves.
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We must have representation in the House of Commons
“We must have representation in the House of Commons. Who then can tell Britain to give Gibraltar back to Spain?
“As long as we have a Governor in Gibraltar, it makes us a colony and these problems with Spain will continue.”
At the heart of Gibraltar’s anxiety is Spain’s Clause 22, a suggestion that any deal between a post-Brexit EU and Britain would exclude Gibraltar unless Madrid gave its specific consent.
According to chief minister Fabian Picardo it is an attempt by Madrid to reap the benefits of trade with Britain “without having to think of blocking them because they want to screw Gibraltar”.
He added: “Spain has a trade surplus with the UK to the tune of £5billion.
“By decoupling Gibraltar from the UK, they can have two bites of the cherry by sponsoring British trade agreements to benefit their fishing industry, flights, tourism and sales of jamon and Rioja while ensuring that Gibraltar is isolated and vulnerable to them.
“It’s only Mrs May that is talking about jaw jaw. The Spaniard are talking veto veto.”
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Theresa May has been firm in rejecting Spain’s land-grab. Both Boris Johnson and David Davis have placed recent telephone calls with the chief minister assuring him of Britain’s staunch support.
Chief minister Fabian Picardo wants a fair deal
But the fear in Gibraltar is that Britain, keen to garner post-Brexit allies in Europe, might be tempted and invite the chief minister for “a difficult conversation”.
He said: “I applaud David Davis ambitions he said he would bring a deal with the exact same benefits. We’ll see.”
He said Boris Johnson had given “firmer than ever” assurances in defence of Gibraltar’s sovereignty, adding: “We are grateful, but defending our sovereignty is not the immediate issue. If one of your children is ill, you don’t need people calling you asking you about your mum.
“Spain has played its hand. Our biggest threat now is London. We must have the same deal as Britain.”
If the UK keeps its resolve regarding Gibraltar during negotiations, it would win in every way.
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Gibraltar has its own political system that makes many decisions within the territory but issues like defence and foreign affairs are determined by the UK Government in London
“In the meantime, Gibraltar is in double jeopardy,” he said.
“Brexit is a risk anyway, and we would rather take the risk with you than be in paradise with others. But we may not be out of risk when you are.”
He accepted a case for Gibraltar having its own MP but said any other type of integration would “threaten the notion of the people of Gibraltar as a political entity”.
“Gibraltar has been voting with citizens of the south west of England in the European Parliament, but we will lose that voice with Brexit.
The majority of residents in Gibraltar voted to remain in the EU
“There might be an argument to say that Gibraltar could have a single seat in the Commons.”
This was backed by Andrew Rosindell MP. “We’ve reached a point where we now have no option but to bring Gibraltar fully into the UK,” he said.
“They’d keep the same powers. It’s about us giving them an equal voice.”