A government minister from Gibraltar has told the DUP conference that the British territory “will not fold” in the face of Spain’s Brexit demands.
Samantha Sacramento was given a rousing reception by the DUP faithful in Belfast as she insisted that Gibraltar will not be “bullied” by any bid from Madrid to undermine its sovereignty.
Housing and equality minister Ms Sacramento was standing in for Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo.
Mr Picardo had been due to address the party conference on Saturday morning but the renewed focus on the British territory in the Brexit talks forced him to pull out to concentrate on the negotiations.
The tensions over Gibraltar concern Spain’s demand that the territory’s future is considered a bilateral issue between London and Madrid rather than between the EU and UK.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has threatened to “veto” progress without further guarantees for Madrid over the status of Gibraltar.
Mr Sanchez had warned that Sunday’s key European Council summit could be scrapped unless there was a breakthrough.
Ms Sacramento was applauded as she told DUP conference delegates in the Crowne Plaza Hotel: “Gibraltar will not fold.
“The Union Jack, our precious Union Jack, is not a mere flag. To those of us who have endured hard times to secure the continuity of our British heritage, our British values and freedoms, the Union Jack encapsulates all we are as a people.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted the proposed EU withdrawal deal is in the interests of “the whole UK family”, including Gibraltar.
Ms Sacramento said Gibraltar was committed to making Brexit work, despite the fact that 96% of its citizens voted Remain.
“It is critical that the United Kingdom remains firm in the defence of our right to self-determination and that Spain is given no hope in its campaign to take our sovereignty from us,” she told the DUP faithful.
“Our borders and our history are very different but our solidarity in defence of our democratic right to preserve our British way of life is unshakeable.”
She concluded: “Gibraltar greatly appreciates the support that the DUP has expressed in support of Gibraltar and its right to remain British and, as my chief minister so often says, we are red, white and blue, we are red, white and proud.”