Brexit requires ‘cooperation, not obstacles,’ Picardo tells San Roque seminar
Gibraltar will continue to grow in a post-Brexit world and Spain should not create obstacles to cross-border cooperation that will generate jobs and wealth for the region, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told a seminar in San Roque yesterday.
Speaking at the annual summer course in San Roque organised by the University of Cádiz, the Chief Minister highlighted how Gibraltar had attracted new business since the Brexit vote and identified fresh opportunities going forward.
Mr Picardo said this growth was happening “at a very difficult moment”, adding that if businesses remained confident “then little should change for citizens”.
Reflecting on Clause 24 of the EU’s negotiating guidelines, Mr Picardo questioned why Spain would want to exclude the Rock, not least because “we could create employment opportunities for all this area”.
He said the UK was committed to including Gibraltar in any future agreement, but said Spain should put the protection of citizens above its territorial aspirations.
Mr Picardo said Gibraltar would protect the rights of EU citizens working on the Rock before the withdrawal date in 2019, but that the position beyond that would depend in part on Spain’s position toward the Rock.
“Brexit changes everything, but sometimes everything has to change in order to remain the same,” he said, highlighting that the bulk of Gibraltar’s financial services and gaming business was with the UK.
“We are seeing opportunities for Gibraltar that we had not seen before now.”
“The important thing is to have access to the UK market, more than the European market.”
And he added: “I see a prosperous future for Gibraltar and it is an opportunity to access the global market.”
“In that future, we must not permit new barriers to understanding and cooperation between Gibraltar, the Campo, the EU and Spain.”
Clause 24, he added, “is not a diplomatic victory”
“Gibraltar will continue to be a source of employment with community rights for Campo citizens and I urge the Spanish Government not to be an obstacle to that, he said.
The Chief Minister spoke of the 12,000 European citizens who work in Gibraltar, highlighting that the number of Spanish workers had risen from 3,400 five years ago to 7,800 at present.
“Gibraltar continues to grow and in the last six months, the number of cross-border workers has grown by 770, of whom 550 are Spanish,” he said, adding that only 100 people were registered as unemployed on the Rock.
Mr Picardo said Gibraltar could generate up to 100,000 jobs if there was total cooperation between Madird, London and Gibraltar.
“We have to continue setting an example by strengthening cooperation between either side of the border,” he said.
“We have to continue taking steps toward that goal.”
Mr Picardo also welcomed news that Spain’s Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis, will visit the Campo de Gibraltar in September.
“Seeing this region at first hand is the most important way of understanding that the future must different from the past,” he said.
Juan Carlos Ruiz Boix, the PSOE mayor of San Roque, said he hoped Sr Dastis would consider the document agreed by the Campo mayors in which they called for initiatives to improve the competitiveness and the economy of the area.
“It’s time to take steps,” Sr Ruix Boix said, adding that “this crisis scenario also offers opportunities.”
He acknowledged that Gibraltarians had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and said “the sentiment is mutual”, adding that it was vital to work together.
He praised the work of the Cross Frontier Group and urged administrations to follow their lead.
“We have some big challenges ahead, above all the 8,000 Spanish workers who cross daily to work in Gibraltar and the more than 300,000 European citizens who share the Campo with Gibraltar,” he said.
Alejandro del Valle, the professor who coordinates the course, said Sr Dastis had been invited but had replied that he was unable to attend, although he had welcomed the initiative.
The second session of the course takes place today in the University of Gibraltar.