WHILST en route to the Turks and Caicos Islands to attend the British Overseas Territories pre-Joint Ministerial Conference, Mr Picardo took the opportunity to meet newly appointed Foreign Secretary the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP on Saturday, July 16 at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.
During the course of a very positive and convivial meeting, Mr Johnson expressed the continued, steadfast commitment of the United Kingdom Government to the ‘Double Lock’ formula on the British Sovereignty of Gibraltar according to a press release issued by the Government of Gibraltar.
The Foreign Secretary made clear he understands the issues relating to free movement which concern so many in Gibraltar, at a personal and business level, as well as Spanish and other workers who come into Gibraltar every day to work. Mr Johnson confirmed that he had queued to enter Gibraltar in his personal capacity in the past and understood the frustrations and concerns related to unnecessarily lengthy queues.
Mr Johnson transmitted a particular affection for Gibraltar, telling the Chief Minister, “I am a fan of Gibraltar. I much admire the place.” He further assured the Chief Minister that he would be “unfailingly robust” on the Sovereignty of Gibraltar, adding that the United Kingdom will also “double our guard” on such issues.
The Chief Minister said: “This first contact with Mr Johnson in his capacity as Foreign Secretary has been very positive indeed. Having an early opportunity to explain all the present personal and economic concerns that we have in Gibraltar after the result of the UK Referendum has been very helpful indeed and will mean that Mr Johnson will have the benefit of our briefing for his meetings in Europe in coming days. I am sure that our engagement with the Foreign Secretary going forward will continue to be positive and favourable for Gibraltar.”
Ironically, the queue to enter Gibraltar is not normally laid at the feet of the Spanish who generally take little interest in delaying arrivals but it tends to be caused by the closing of the runway to allow flight arrivals and the random checking of passports on the Gibraltar side, although officers rarely check computer records whilst looking at passports, so this simply adds to the time taken to enter.
The main complaint, which is not the fault of Gibraltar, is over the length of time it takes to exit, with long queues exacerbated by customs checks, particularly when officers have been instructed to be irritating.