Saturday, 28th July 2012
Effects on Gib of UK withdrawal from EU would depend on exit arrangements
by Eyleen Sheil
“The implications for Gibraltar of the UK withdrawing from the EU would depend on the arrangements that would then be put in place between the UK and the EU upon the UK’s exit,” was the reply from the local Government when answering a question put to them in relation to a hypothetical withdrawal from the EU by the UK.
The Government also advised that if the UK holds a referendum to decide whether it remains a member or not, the UK would need to consult the Government of Gibraltar to determine whether Gibraltar would vote in such a referendum. There is no indication that the consultation that would take place would give Gibraltar any rights or if the process is just a formality.
If a referendum was to take place and the UK voted against membership but Gibraltar voted in favour of membership, Convent Place said: “Gibraltar is a European territory for whose external affairs a member state is responsible: that member state is the UK. This means that our terms of membership are linked to those of UK.”
There is currently six MP’s representing Gibraltar in the European Parliament; we asked each of these MP’s the same questions in relation to a possible referendum and Gibraltar’s position should a referendum be held.
In reply Trevor Colman, from the UK Independent Party, and Europe of Freedom and Democracy party said; “I definitely would support an EU referendum taking place in the UK. I would not support an EU-wide referendum but would support individual referenda in each of the member states.” If the question was should the UK be in or out of the EU, he said, “I would support the ‘out’ side.”
With regards to what would be the situation for Gibraltar if the UK was to leave the EU, he said; “I suspect that the situation with Gibraltar, if Britain regained its independence, would be that Gibraltar would similarly regain its independence from Brussels. However, if there were to be any problem with this arrangement then I would support Gibraltar having a separate referendum.”
Adding: “As it stands Gibraltar would take part in a UK referendum, the votes of the Gibraltarians are of equal importance with other UK citizens.”
He also said; “I firmly believe that there will be a referendum within the next 12 months. The only problem is I suspect that Cameron/Clegg/Milliband won’t allow us an in/out question. They will try to fudge the question; they’re already doing this through various spokesmen.”
Giving his answers to the same questions was Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, who is also a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists, when asked would he support an EU referendum taking place he said; “Yes but it depends on what question.” He advised that he would vote to maintain UK membership. With regards to what would be the situation for Gibraltar if the UK was to leave the EU, he said; “I presume Gibraltar would prefer to follow the UK as I can’t imagine it would contemplate switching allegiance to Spain!” He also advised that Gibraltar would take part in a potential referendum.
Follow conservative and member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Ashley Fox said; “The Prime Minister is right to talk about holding a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the European Union. He is also right that this shouldn’t take place until after the next General Election.”
Mr Fox spoke about when he travels the South West he hears how few people are happy with Britain’s current relationship with the EU. They say that Europe costs too much and interferes too much in their daily lives. He said; “Whilst we value the single market that enables us to trade freely with our European partners, we worry that Europe is developing into a Political Union that we haven’t voted to join. “
Appreciating the fact that many people want to leave the EU and want an in/out referendum now, he states that this has a problem as this precludes the possibility of improving the current position. A yes vote means affirmation of the current terms of membership, which is something he does not wish to do, and it would prevent any form of repatriation of powers back to Britain. He believes they need to take their time to get this right.
He stated that he wants to see a Conservative majority Government elected in 2015 on a mandate to repatriate powers from Brussels to Britain, repeating the manifesto promise made at the last General Election. He said; “The question should be whether the British people want to remain within the EU on the new terms, which I hope would resemble the Common Market we joined in 1973, or would they prefer to leave? We need to be absolutely sure that we are asking the right question at the right time.”
In relation to Gibraltar he stated he was not a constitutional expert “but I would hope that Gibraltar would participate in any referendum on our future relationship with the EU, and I believe that Gibraltar would be bound by whatever the outcome of that referendum was.”
Sir Graham Watson is an MP for the Liberal Democrats and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. A firm non supporter of an EU referendum taking place, he said: “I believe it would be frivolous to put British jobs and investment and so much else at risk merely to placate fanatics in the UKIP and the Tory party.”
If a referendum was to take place Sir Watson said; “I would vote to stay in the EU. I believe the government’s policy is right, viz to hold a referendum on any new Treaty proposal involving a substantial change in the UK’s relations with its EU partners.”
With regards to where Gibraltar would stand among all of this Sir Graham advised that “Gibraltar joined the EU as a territory linked to the UK and would therefore leave on the same basis. For that reason, Gibraltar’s voters should be enfranchised to participate in any referendum.”
Julie Girling is an MP for the Conservative and the European Conservatives and Reformists, who would support a referendum taking place, however she does not think that a yes/no referendum is adequate. She said: “There must be three options. Yes, No or Stay and renegotiate. I would support the third option.”
If the UK was to leave the EU she believes that this issue is the subject of legal debate and the answers are not definitive, she said: “If the UK left the EU, in all likelihood Gibraltar would go with the UK, just as it joined with the UK. Any exit would be negotiated among all Member States. Gibraltar, as an Overseas Territory, could not remain in the EU without the UK as it is not a state in its own right under international law.
With regards to Gibraltar taking part in the referendum she said: “Similarly, this issue is the subject of legal debate and it is unclear what would happen in the event of a referendum, but: Gibraltar could participate in a referendum if the legislation for that referendum extended the franchise to Gibraltar. That would be decided by Parliament.”
William the Earl of Dartmouth is a member of the UK Independence Party has led the call for a Referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe for many years. He said; “We firmly believe that people should have a say on this vital issue. Remember that nobody under the age of 54 has had a vote on this in 1973 we were voting on a Common Market not a political and economic union.”
He advised that if the Referendum question was an in or out question then he would be leading the out vote, and as it stands Gibraltar, as a British Overseas Territory, would be bound by the referendum vote.
However with regards to the question ‘would the people of Gibraltar have a vote in the Referendum?’ he advised: “At present no they would not.”
Adding: “However the UK Independence party is about to begin a campaign to change that. We feel it would be totally wrong, as well as undemocratic, for people not to be able to vote on a matter which determines their future. A clause needs to be inserted into the Referendum Act to give Gibraltar this right. UKIP will be pressing for the change to be made.”