GIBRALTAR is a ‘key part of the British family’, said Brexit Minister Robin Walker on his visit to the Rock.
In his first trip to Gibraltar as a Minister, Walker said the UK government will ‘never enter into an agreement’ which saw Gibraltar pass under the sovereignty of another state against its will.
Walker was speaking alongside Chief Minister Fabian Picardo on the week the UK parliament passed the Brexit bill.
Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, kickstarting the process of withdrawal from the EU.
During his visit Walker is due to meet with representatives from ‘different sectors of Gibraltar’s thriving economy’.
Walker said: “Gibraltar is a key part of the British family. The UK deeply values British sovereignty over Gibraltar and is fully committed to promoting the interests of Gibraltar and the wishes of Gibraltarians.
“The United Kingdom will never enter into any sovereignty negotiations.
“It’s our intention to maintain Gibraltar’s access to the United Kingdom market in financial services and we are examining together how we can broaden our economic cooperation and increase that access.”
He added: “We will take into account the interests of Gibraltar as the United Kingdom looks to establish new trade and investment with the wider world.
“We understand that a well-functioning border between Gibraltar and Spain is vitally important. We want to ensure the border will continue to function well.”
Walker also said the UK government would be talking to all the EU institutions as well as the 27 member states.
“You are a key part of the overall UK position,” he added.
“When it comes to the border, we need to focus on the mutual interest in reaching a settlement. It’s very clear that Gibraltar’s huge economic success brings enormous benefits to Andalucia and Spain.”
Walker also said the government ‘heard very clearly’ the concerns of British expats living in Spain.
It comes two weeks after representatives from the Exiting the EU Committee failed to attend a Mijas meeting by campaign group Brexpats In Spain.
“We hear very clearly the concerns of British expats living all over the EU,” he said.
“It’s one of the reasons we have been really clear on the need to reach a reciprocal deal early in negotiations.
“We think it’s absolutely right we have a moral responsibility to UK citizens. We want to ensure we secure a strong deal in this respect.
“In terms of members of the Exiting the EU Select Committee they are independent parliamentarians so I can’t speak on their behalf.
“But certainly we as a government have heard from the representatives of expats and we want to ensure their interests are protected. Just as we want to extend that pledge to EU citizens in the UK. “