Ahead of this week’s session of Parliament in the United Kingdom Bob Neill MP, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gibraltar, has put our office in London on notice that party whips have informed MPs and Peers that they are likely to be required to remain at hand in Westminster over the coming days and weeks because of the level of political activity taking place, particularly in relation to departure from the EU and the looming possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
The complexity of the division over Brexit amongst MPs especially within the main parties has led to Whips not willing to take the risk of ‘pairing’ which can happen when MPs from opposite parties and on opposite positions of a vote cancel out each other and agree to be away from the voting chamber at the same time.
As a result it is possible that many of the MPs who were committed to attending National Day may have to opt out. Some have already done so because they feel the risk is too high. Some have said that they will be over to attend the Chief Minister’s National Day reception and sign the SDGG self- determination banner but will return to London early if they are required to do so. All this is further complicated by the threat of a strike by British Airways pilots which will clearly add uncertainty to MPs’ travel plans.
The effect is a reduction in the number of MPs visiting. Additionally, at noon on September 10 a memorial service is being held for former Lib Dem leader and MP Paddy Ashdown which is being attended by all Lib Dem MPs and Peers and many of Mr Ashdown’s colleagues and friends from other political parties.
Bob Neill MP said:
“I very much hope I will be able to attend National Day or some of the political events but none of us in the APPG can be certain of how events in the coming days will unfold. This year National Day falls in the very middle of what could be one of the most dramatic weeks in Parliament in a very long time. Whatever happens the commitment of the members of the APPG Gibraltar remains 100% to the people of Gibraltar and their right to self-determination. All of us hope you enjoy all the events leading up to National Day as well as that unforgettable red and white day.”
Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia said: “I do very much hope that in the vent many of the MPs who accepted the invitation to attend will be able to come over. But the issue of Brexit and the risk of a no-deal Brexit is reaching an important, critical moment and we fully understand if our friends need to be in Westminster to fight our corner and what they see as the best interests of UK.”