Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford in Essex, is campaigning for all residents of British Overseas Territories (BOT) – estimated population 265,000 as of last year – to get their own MPs. And he believes Gibraltar, which is located at the south-eastern tip of Spain, and which as the only such territory in Europe occupies a unique position among the 14 BOTs, should be first in the queue. Gibraltar has been in British hands since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, with Spain maintaining a historic claim, and keen to put the issue of sovereignty on the agenda as UK and EU negotiators attempt to thrash out a free trade agreement by the end of the year.
With Gibraltar, the situation is clear
And Mr Rosindell, chairman of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on the British Overseas Territories in the last Parliament, believes effectively incorporating the Rock into the UK would significantly undercut Madrid’s argument.
Two years ago, 40 percent of the Rock’s 23,000 voters – including Chief Minister Fabian Picardo – signed a petition calling for Westminster representation.
Mr Rosindell told Express.co.uk: “With Gibraltar, the situation is clear.
“It’s also got a big enough population to warrant its own MP – comparable with that of the Western Isles in Scotland.
“Also, it can only be British – if it stops being British, it becomes Spanish.
“It cannot become independent – therefore, Gibraltar will always be tied to Britain.”
With Brexit now a reality, and Madrid pushing to exclude the Rock from any trade deal, Mr Rosindell said he saw little reason for the UK to drag its heels on the issue.
He said: “It could be done straight away by passing an Act of Parliament which I don’t think would be opposed by many MPs.
“And I do think it should happen now.”
With most of the other territories, from the Falklands to St Helena, Bermuda to the Turks and Caicos Islands, the situation was less clear cut, and more complex discussions were needed.
However, Mr Rosindell said: “Gibraltar is different.
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“The vast majority of people support the idea, no question about it.”
There is also a precedent in terms of Gibraltarians enjoying UK representation – prior to the UK’s exit from the EU, Gibraltar elected MEPs to the European Parliament as part of the South West England constituency.
Speaking last month, fellow Tory MP John Penrose also backed the idea of MPs for British Overseas Oerritories, saying: “You would need to give the question of how many MPs representing which islands to the Boundary Commission.
“That’s got to be done independently of politicians and political parties.
“The important thing is the representation is there and it is constitutionally guaranteed.
“It would depend on what the Boundary Commission independently comes up with.”
Speaking at the end of last month, an HM Government of Gibraltar spokesman told Express.co.uk: “Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar continues and will continue to explore the possibility of representation for Gibraltar in the Westminster Parliament but in a way that Gibraltar would retain all the constitutional powers that are currently exercised by its own Government and Parliament.”
Gibraltarians have twice demonstrated their commitment to Britain, voting overwhelming to retain ties with the UK in referendums in 1967 and 2003.
Mr Picardo told Express.co.uk last November Gibraltar would always put Britain first, saying: “We have got British blood running through our veins and that’s what matters.”
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