Gibraltar deserves representation in the House of Commons post-Brexit

Gibraltar deserves representation in the House of Commons post-Brexit

All fourteen of the UK’s Overseas Territories are different; all are special. All share Queen Elizabeth II as their own Head of State; most are internally self-governing.

But the Overseas Territory which now sits in a unique constitutional position post-Brexit is Gibraltar. It is the only territory that is a member of the EU, and will be leaving the EU with the UK on 29th March 2019. Its relationship with the EU is quite different from any other part of the Union in that it is a member of the Single Market, but not a member of its Customs Union nor Schengen – despite having a land border with the EU.

Few were surprised that Gibraltar voted Remain at the EU referendum, reflecting its residents’ concerns that the EU had played, at times, a role in balancing the often fractious demands of its giant neighbour, Spain. The good life and strong economy, a beacon in an area of regional unemployment, I can but guess also played a part in its vote for no change.

Gibraltar evokes within us all a special relationship of shared values, shared struggles across the centuries and unwavering loyalty to the Crown. It occupies a unique geographical position as the gatekeeper to the Mediterranean and is one of the most important international bases for the Royal Navy. Whenever it has been presented with a choice as to its future, notably in the shared sovereignty referendum of 2002, it has rejected any change by vast margins.

However, it is the UK’s Brexit vote which must make us think anew and refresh Gibraltar’s relationship with the UK – and re-assert once more that the Rock is British and will remain so. This is best guaranteed by a closer electoral bond which would also send a clear message to Madrid as to the perpetuity of that bond.

Unlike other Overseas Territories, Gibraltar does not have an option of formal independence, which would be – however unlikely – available to others should they so wish. The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht ceded Gibraltar to Great Britain in perpetuity, later confirmed in the 1729 Seville Treaty and the Treaty of Paris of 1783. The Treaty had a sting in that Gibraltar can only be British or Spanish: its own unilateral independence is not an option.

Whilst most Overseas Territories have either their own currencies, shared currencies under the East Caribbean Dollar Currency Union, or indeed use the euro or US dollar, it is only the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar which share Sterling as their currency.

The truly unique feature for Gibraltar is that it already has electoral links with the UK via its attachment to the South West region for representation in the European Parliament. This will disappear upon Brexit. There was a cogent argument then that Gibraltar should have electoral representation connected to the UK, and there is a clear argument now.

Gibraltar has a population that is a little light numerically to fulfil a constituency size with a population of just 33,000, and eligible voting roll of 23,000. This is however in the same ball-park of size as the UK constituency of Na h-Eileanan an Iar, the Outer Hebrides constituency with 21,260 voters.

I am therefore today, Tuesday 19th June, introducing in the House of Commons a 10-minute rule bill which, if taken further, would not impose a Westminster MP upon Gibraltar, but provide for the residents of Gibraltar, through their own internal procedures, to decide whether to take up that option. It would not change the devo-max settlement of their 2006 constitution, though it would signal a perpetual and lasting bond of shared interests.