“FIFTY years later, in 2017, our resolve to assert our British sovereignty and defend our right to self- determination remains as strong as it has ever been.”
These words were contained in a joint National Day statement from the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia as Gibraltar celebrates the 50-year anniversary of a truly momentous turning point in the history of Gibraltar.
We are reminded that in September 1967, at a time of rising hostility from Franco’s Spain, a brave Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to remain British.
Other than Britain, this was a time of little international support. A proud people knew that they had made their decision in the full knowledge that Spain’s punishment would be swift and harsh.
Spain’s tactics before the referendum of restricting border crossings, banning flights over the country and stopping fresh produce transportation spectacularly backfired as instead of capitulation Gibraltar’s resolve was stiffened.
Well aware that Madrid would look to punish The Rock even harder the people of Gibraltar confirmed their wish to remain British. The outcome was the closure of the frontier, the ending of maritime links with Spain and the cutting of telephone communications.
Gibraltar was under a modern-day siege dependent on military spending and aid from the UK and paying a heavy price for its right to safeguard its sovereignty.
But with great resolve and courage in the face of adversity The Rock survived the siege and redesigned its economic model and reformed its democratic institutions under a new Constitution.
The joint National day statement from Mr Picardo and Dr Garcia said: “Our forefathers refused to sell our birth-right. They did not surrender to the bully next door. More than three hundred years of British rule have taught us not to give in to bullies.
“We continue to face some of those old challenges, and we will face them with as much strength and vigour as we did in 1967. We also face new challenges, and we are ready to meet them head on.
“That peaceful courage in the face of adversity is what makes us Gibraltarians determined to ensure that the future of our homeland is such as we and no others may decide.”