Gibraltar 'not willing to negotiate an inch' with Spain says expert
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Sir Lindsay is preparing to preside over today’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQS) which is set to be one of the most explosive in recent weeks. It comes as Downing Street this week admitted that Boris Johnson and some of his staff gathered to celebrate his 56th birthday at Number 10 during the first 2020 lockdown. This is added to the much anticipated report by senior civil servant Sue Gray about the other parties, that will, it has been suggested, be published today.
Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer has been tipped to give the Prime Minister both barrels over the newest revelations and potentially damning report.
Sir Lindsay’s public profile has grown tremendously since he took the role of Speaker of the House of Commons in 2019.
Each week he is seen grappling with the loud voices of the House, subduing them when necessary and deflecting any brewing tensions across the floor.
He had served as John Bercow’s Deputy Speaker since 2010, and was first elected to Parliament as a Labour MP in 1997, a seat which he has kept ever since.
His entering Parliament coincided with Sir Tony Blair becoming Prime Minister and what was a decade-long domination of politics by the Labour Party.
While the pair worked together closely and were part of the same political cohort, archive reports show that they did not always see eye-to-eye.
In 2002, Sir Tony sought to hand over part control of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, to Spain.
He had made a joint governance agreement and set it out as Government policy.
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Peter Hain, who had become Europe Minister in 2001, claimed in his memoirs, ‘Outside In’, that Sir Tony was “contemptuous” toward the desire of Gibraltar residents to remain under the British flag.
Lord Hain ‒ who is now a life peer ‒ and Sir Tony were said to want to work together on the deal, with Lord Hain’s desire being based on a “gut instinct that it was ridiculous in the modern age for Britain to have a colony on the tip of Spain nearly 2,000 miles away”.
Gibraltar has been a British colony since 1713, and some Labour MPs were furious with Sir Tony for putting it on the table, including Sir Lindsay.
The current Speaker argued with Sir Tony over the deal, something which is said to have cost him his chances of securing a ministerial role or making it into the Cabinet.
When asked if he regretted the decision, he said: “Absolutely not. I still think it was the right thing to do.”
Speaking to The Guardian about Gibraltar later on, in 2013, he added: “I’m not anti-Tony; he made us electable and won three times.
“But there are principles and promises you don’t break.”
Lord Hain suggested Sir Tony originally threw his weight behind the idea of giving Gibraltar to Spain in order to secure the European country’s support during EU negotiations.
In January 2002, when reports of the deal first leaked, a furious Sir Lindsay told CNN: “I think there’s quite a lot of truth in it.
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“I think it’s totally unacceptable.
“A referendum should be given to the people of Gibraltar and I would expect that whatever the result was would be the way forward and that that result should be respected.”
Regardless of Sir Tony’s “contempt”, Spain eventually vetoed the deal and a referendum on Gibraltar’s being a part of the UK found that 98 percent of its residents wanted to remain.
Lord Hain also wrote that, even after Spain vetoed the deal, Sir Tony and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw were convinced Gibraltar should be run by both the UK and Spain.
Sir Lindsay had had direct experience with Gibraltar, having fought for three of his constituents after they were held at the border between Gibraltar and Spain while on holiday during his time as a backbencher.
Speaking to the Times in 2019, Mr Hoyle said: “I did blot my copy book very early on.”
Sir Lindsay also heads the All-Party British Gibraltar Group in Parliament, while his father, Doug Hoyle, is the Treasurer.
He has previously said that Gibraltar “always held a special place in my heart”.
Since 2006, the territory has governed most of its affairs, while the UK takes general responsibility for defence and foreign relations on the Rock.
In 2017, Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, was damning in his assessment of Sir Tony and his Government.
He told Sky News that Gibraltarians will always be “sceptical” of the former Prime Minister after the revelations.
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