Michael Howard – 2004 Speech on Gibraltar

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Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition, on 17th May 2004.

I am honoured to be with you today in Gibraltar, just as I was at your National Day in 2002.

Today is the eighth anniversary of Peter Caruna’s election as Prime Minister of Gibraltar.

But it was three hundred years ago that Gibraltar became British.

There are those who would wish to overturn three hundred years of history and separate Gibraltar from the United Kingdom.

My pledge to you today is a simple one.

The Conservatives will never surrender Gibraltar’s sovereignty without the specific mandate of the people of Gibraltar.

Let me read you what it says in our manifesto.

“An incoming Conservative government will not be bound by any agreement to surrender Gibraltar’s sovereignty which has been reached without the consent of the people of Gibraltar. We will disown this Government’s agreement in principle to share sovereignty with Spain…Britain and Spain should now discuss those matters where agreement can be reached. They do not include the issue of sovereignty”.

And let me remind the Labour Government what it says in your Constitution, drawn up when a Labour Government was last in power, in 1969.

“… Her Majesty’s Government have given assurances to the people of Gibraltar that Gibraltar will remain part of Her Majesty’s dominions unless and until an Act of Parliament otherwise provides and furthermore that Her Majesty’s Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes”.

Britain’s historic commitment to you could not be clearer.

But let me read to you what Labour say now, to the people of Gibraltar, in their manifesto.

Yes, that’s right. Absolutely nothing. Not one word.

Although Jack Straw did manage to comment that he thought the 2002 referendum was “eccentric”.

Well then, let us see what the Liberal Democrats have to say to the people of Gibraltar in their manifesto.

Yes, that’s right. Absolutely nothing. Not one word.

Although Menzies Campbell, their foreign affairs spokesman, did manage to describe the 2002 referendum as “daft”.

On the 10th June, people for all over Europe will be going to the polls in the European elections.

For the first time, the people of Gibraltar have a voice in an election in the United Kingdom.

We in the Conservative Party campaigned alongside you for you to have that voice.

Together we achieved a great victory.

I launched our campaign a fortnight ago in Plymouth, which for the purposes of the European elections is in the same region as Gibraltar, the South West.

I know that all my friends and colleagues in the South West welcome Gibraltar with both enthusiasm and affection. Our common naval and seafaring tradition has moved forward now to more modern shared interests in the diverse worlds of tourism and financial services.

So there is still much that unites our two communities.

We have some excellent MEPs and candidates in the South West, all of whom are passionate in their commitment to Gibraltar.

Your votes can help send them to Brussels to fight for you. To fight on the 350 telephone code issue. To fight on the pollution Gibraltar faces from mainland Spain.

To fight about the constant time wasted and “hassle” at the border. To fight on this issue of visiting cruise liners.

To fight for you.

Europe needs to go in a new direction.

I say this as leader of a Party, the British Conservative Party, that has been at the forefront of Britain’s engagement with Europe since the early 1960s.

I am, therefore, determined that Britain shall remain a positive and influential member of the European Union.

But I do not want a Europe which is a one-way street to closer integration to which all must subscribe.

Those member states which wish to integrate more closely should be free to do so. But they should not drag Britain and quite possibly some other member states reluctantly in their wake. We would say to our partners: ‘We don’t want to stop you doing what you want to do, as long as you don’t make us do what we don’t want to do’.

We do not want to impose on the European Union a rigid straitjacket of uniformity from Finland to Greece, from Portugal to Poland.

Conservative policy is simple. Live and let live. Flourish and let flourish. That is a modern and mature approach.

Conservatives will stand up for Britain’s and Gibraltar’s interests.

We will continue to oppose British membership of the Euro.

We will negotiate to restore local and national control over British fisheries. The Common Fisheries Policy is emptying our seas of fish and has utterly failed our fishermen.

We will preserve national control over asylum, immigration and defence policy.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

The Conservatives have always been good friends to Gibraltar.

The Conservatives will always stand up for Gibraltar.

The Conservatives will not let Gibraltar down.