Gibraltar repeats call for second Brexit vote as UK swears in new prime minister

More than 95 per cent of people in Gibraltar voted to remain in the EU

FILE PHOTO: A Royal Gibraltar Police's boat guards the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 as it sits anchored after it was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria, in the Strait of Gibraltar, southern Spain July 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo
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Gibraltar on Wednesday again called for a second referendum on Britain leaving the EU and for the UK to be “sympathetic” as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is sworn in.

Mr Johnson's ambitions for a no-deal Brexit are of great concern in the British territory, where 95.9 per cent of the population voted to stay in the bloc.

“We hope that Mr Johnson will ensure that he also has the wishes and interests of the people of Gibraltar in mind when considering Brexit," Social Democrats leader Keith Azopardi said.

“We are the only British territory with a land frontier with mainland Europe.

"We have decisively expressed a wish to have a close relationship with the EU and, while Mr Johnson was one of the foremost advocates of the Vote Leave campaign, we trust he will be sympathetic to the economic and political aspirations of the people of Gibraltar.

“A free-flowing border and market access to the EU and the UK are clear goals for Gibraltar, and it is important that he does his utmost to ensure our political and economic rights are protected and fully respected by Spain.”

When the UK leadership election result was announced on Tuesday, Mr Johnson made it clear in his victory speech that the UK would leave the EU on October 31.

“We are united in the reality that there is no mandate, across the board, for a hard Brexit," Gibraltan Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon said on Wednesday.

"As such, and as a people, we are a community of remainers and support the prospect of a second referendum.

“Regardless of this possibility, we hope our goals and interests will be duly represented by the new premiership,”

Last week Mr Johnson told Gibraltar's paper Reach that the territory would be "fully involved" in any plans to leave the EU without a deal.

“I understand there was a large majority in Gibraltar in favour of remaining in the EU,” he said.

“I know you have a real sense of kinship with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK and EU to have a prosperous future.

"As one of our precious overseas territories you already embody this relationship. Gibraltar punches well above its weight as the Spanish well know, with the Rock providing 8,000 jobs for Spaniards.

"We want to ensure that after we leave the EU by October 31 we have a close and special trading relationship with the EU that allows all of the economic benefits that Gibraltans and Spaniards enjoy today.”

Dr Joseph Garcia, Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister, added his call for a second referendum on the official government website.

“The preferred position of the government of Gibraltar is that the UK revokes article 50 and remains in the European Union, or a referendum," Dr Garcia wrote.

"However, we need to continue to prepare for every eventuality and that includes leaving on 31 October without a deal."

On Wednesday, Mr Garcia and Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, wrote to Mr Johnson to congratulate him on winning the Conservative Party leadership vote.

The UK is in the middle of a crisis with Iran after Britain seized an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar.

The Grace 1 is still anchored off Gibraltar and has caused anger among its citizens, who are now at the centre of a major stand-off between the countries.

Last week Gibraltar was granted the power to detain Iran’s oil tanker for another month.

It said the Iranian vessel, seized by marines in a daring landing in darkness on July 4, was suspected of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Iran has repeatedly called for the ship’s release and denies the allegation that the tanker was taking oil to Syria.

It claims Gibraltar and Britain seized the vessel on the orders of Washington.