EXCLUSIVE: BORIS JOHNSON has told Reach he backs a post-Brexit EU trading relationship that “allows all the economic benefits Gibraltarians and Spaniards enjoy today” if he becomes Prime Minister.
In a Reach-Alcance exclusive, Mr Johnson called for a “close and special” post-Brexit trading agreement between Britain and Brussels, but guaranteed Gibraltar would be “fully involved” in any no-deal plans under his government.
Mr Johnson is hotly tipped to be named Britain’s new leader in July after the Conservative Party leadership battle with rival Jeremy Hunt, sparked when Theresa May quit as Prime Minister in June.
The favourite for No 10 made a “do or die” no-deal pledge to leave the EU by October 31, but Mr Johnson stressed to Reach he wants healthy cross-border relations between Gibraltar and Andalucia once Britain leaves the single bloc.
Mr Johnson told Reach: “I understand there was a large majority in Gibraltar in favour of remaining in the EU.”
“I know you have a real sense of kinship with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK and the EU to have a prosperous future.”
“As one of our precious overseas territories you already embody this relationship. Gibraltar punches well above its weight as the Spanish well know, with the Rock providing jobs for 8,000 Spaniards.”
Mr Johnson added: “We want to ensure that after we leave the EU by October 31 we have a close and special trading relationship with the EU that allows all the economic benefits Gibraltarians and Spaniards enjoy today.”
Gibraltar boosts the Campo de Gibraltar economy by some €800 million a year, according to evidence given in 2017 to a House of Lords Select Committee on the EU by Professor John Fletcher, an internationally renowned economist from Bournemouth University.
Professor Fletcher has warned a hard Brexit would have an “enormous impact” on Gibraltar and Andalucia’s economies.
Around 14,000 workers cross the border into Gibraltar every day, 8,000 of them Spaniards – many from La Linea, where unemployment is around 35 per cent – with about 25 per cent of the Campo de Gibraltar economy directly or indirectly supported by the Rock.
Mr Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary in July 2018, after the then-Prime Minister Theresa May published her Chequers blueprint on leaving the EU.
In 2017, he warned Madrid that Gibraltar “is not for sale” and that UK support for the British Overseas Territory was “rock like” after the EU granted Spain an effective veto over decisions affecting Gibraltar when it published draft Brexit negotiating guidelines.
There are fears in Westminster the Spanish government may use Brexit to leverage further concessions over Gibraltar.
Last November, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declared “with Brexit we all lose, but when it comes to Gibraltar, Spain wins” while urging talks on joint sovereignty.
But Mr Johnson has once again reiterated the UK’s support for Gibraltar.
Mr Johnson told Reach: “Gibraltar is an integral part of the British family and I made this clear to the EU in my time as Foreign Secretary when they tried to say any decisions affecting Gibraltar would be run past Spain.”
“I will make sure Gibraltar is fully involved in the work that we do as part of our no-deal preparations.”
Around 160,000 Tory party members have been voting on Mr Hunt or Mr Johnson to be Britain’s next leader, with the ballot closing on July 22.
Britain’s new Prime Minister will be announced on July 23.