Gibraltar has “every confidence” Boris Johnson will stand up for the territory in trade negotiations with the EU, Gibraltar’s finance minister has said.
Albert Isola, minister for financial and digital services, told Yahoo Finance UK: “We have every confidence that [Boris] will [stick up for Gibraltar]. We are relying on him to do so.”
Post-Brexit trade talks between the EU and UK have recently commenced, with both sides aiming to strike a deal by the end of the year. Gibraltar, which voted to remain in the EU, could prove a point of contention in talks.
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory that was ceded by Spain in 1713. Spain has long sought the return of the territory.
Spain’s foreign minister told the Financial Times last month post-Brexit talks between the UK and EU were “an incredible opportunity to fix a number of things that we have not been able to fix in the last 300 years” with regards to Gibraltar. It has led to fears that Spain could ultimately try to loosen links between the UK and Gibraltar over time.
The EU has also given Madrid the power to block Gibraltar from any deal struck between the EU and UK.
“The position is we will be included but we know from the European Union side that they have told Spain that the application of that agreement to Gibraltar will depend on Spain approving,” Isola said.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said last year he would “never, never, never allow the sovereignty of Gibraltar to be diluted, or adulterated or in any way changed.”
Isola said preserving trade links with the UK was more important for Gibraltar’s financial services sector than trade with the EU.
“For us, when you think that 92% of our financial services business is with the UK, that’s a very important position for us to be in,” he said.
Gibraltar would also walk away from any trade deal if needed, rather than scupper talks, he said.
“We are grown up and mature, we know what that could potentially mean,” he said. “If it means we gotta say no to a deal because it’s a bad deal for Gibraltar and we walk away — well then fine, so be it.
“The point is, when the interest of 65 million Brits conflicts with 32,000 Gibraltarians, we are mature enough to understand that if what is put to us is not good for us we will say don’t worry, we won’t form a part of it.
“I think we all know what the stakes are. We know what the UK needs to do for the UK. If that means that we’re going to be prejudiced at any time, we’ll walk away, it’s not an issue.”
If Gibraltar is not included in any trade deal, it would revert to trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms with nearest neighbour Spain and the rest of the EU. Isola downplayed the potential impact.
“The border that we have with Spain today is already a full frontier,” he said. “When you talk about frictionless, we have a friction border.
“We already have goods going through customs today and people going through custom controls. That should be no different.”