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'Did his lips move?'

Image Courtesy Of Gibraltar Chronicle

by Prof. Dr. Samuel Abudarham

One of many jokes about politicians which rings very true for some politicos asks “How can one tell when a politician is being disingenuous?” The answer? “His lips move!” And the other is “What do you get when you cross a Godfather with a politician?” Answer? “An offer you cannot understand!”

I will elaborate on these presently. But let us look at some facts regarding the origins and outcomes of the negotiations between David Cameron and the EU.

Cameron assured the UK that if all his demands were not met, he would take the UK out of the EU. He is the one who started it although it must be said that most of his demands were reasonable. They were nevertheless ALL motivated to benefit the UK primarily. Now, despite the fact that he did not win all his demands, he is withdrawing his absolute threat and is urging the UK (No Thatcher him!), and Us in Gibraltar, to support his ‘IN’ campaign … not that our vote will count for much!

So let us summarise Cameron’s demands, which were granted and which were not!

Did he try and change the rules of the UK's EU membership? It must be said that he did. This was back in January and February when he sought an agreement with other EU leaders to change Britain's membership terms. The two main issues of the deal were to change the high levels of immigration into the UK and not giving up the ability to run UK’s own affairs.  If the UK votes to remain in the EU, it will immediately be granted "special" status within the 28 nation club. Critics say that his deal will make little difference and falls well short of what he had promised when he announced his plan for a referendum.

The main outcomes of the deal are:

Child benefit for immigrants - A compromise was reached. Mr. Cameron had wanted to end this practice. Migrant workers will now still be able to send child benefit payments back home. However, the payments will be set at a level reflecting the cost of living in their home rather than the full UK rate.

Migrant welfare payments - Mr. Cameron has argued that one of the main reasons why people come to Britain in such large numbers is because of the benefits they get. One of the ways of reducing such immigration is by cutting the amount of benefits low paid workers from other EU nations can claim when they take a job in the UK.  Critics say it will make little difference.

He did not get the blanket ban he wanted. New arrivals will not be eligible to claim tax credits and other welfare payments immediately they arrive but the longer they stay, they will gradually gain the right to more benefits, at a rate yet to be decided. How are these agreements regarding immigrant financial benefits relevant to Gibraltar?

Keeping the pound - Like Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, before him, Mr. Cameron (the not so Iron Gentleman) has said Britain will never join the euro. He successfully secured undertakings that countries in the Eurozone will not discriminate against Britain for having a different currency. But then, has this been happening? If not, and I confess I do not know, this cannot be considered a ‘vacuous’ achievement. More important was the agreement that any money spent by the UK on bailing out Eurozone nations will also be reimbursed. Relevant to Gibraltar?

Protection for the City of London - He has achieved safeguards to prevent Eurozone regulations being imposed on Britain's large financial services industry. This would in all probability affect Gibraltar.

Running its own affairs - Of all arguments against staying in the EU, this is probably the one most often quoted by the person in the street and interference from EU’s ever growing and uncompromising regulations is the most keenly resented and unpopular. Cameron scored an ‘apparent’ success in this matter. One of the core principles of the EU is that member states should move towards ever closer union. There will be a clear commitment that Britain is not part of this move. This agreement will be guaranteed in an EU treaty change. This could in all probability affect Gibraltar.

The seemingly cavalier and practical unaccountability with which unwanted legislation is generated by the EU can now, thanks to Mr. Cameron, be secured by a "red card" system. If 55% of national EU parliaments object to a piece of EU legislation, the relevant legislation will be rethought. According to some critics, it is not clear if this would ever be used in practice.

So there you have it in a nutshell!

The last UK-wide referendum on the UK’s voting system, cost more than £75million. The whole of next month’s referendum exercise alone, in the UK, will cost no less than £142.4million. The budget goes toward activities such as the cost of cards and posting them and campaign materials, running stations, counting votes, and providing funding to the official campaign groups.

I have yet to see any costings for Gibraltar ... in fact, I wonder whether the local exercise has been costed in any way!

Gibraltar has been dragged into this saga by the UK though it is clear that our involvement might also be self-generated on the speculation that ‘leaving’ the EU will affect us adversely. Most of the alleged negative outcomes for Gibraltar if Brexit is successful are unproven … how can they be proven, particularly since politicos have largely issued veiled, vague, unsubstantiated prophecies of doom and gloom, often supported by trite sentimentality. Politicians themselves have acknowledged that leaving will be a leap into the dark!! So how can they make such ominous predictions when it is the dark we will be leaping into??? Of course they could be right but then they could be wrong! It may take another decade before we find out!

On the one hand, Foreign Secretary Hammond has declared that “Britain’s commitment to Gibraltar is absolute, it’s unshakeable and it will endure whatever the decision in the referendum” and almost at the same time he warns that “Britain’s ability to protect Gibraltar’s interests will be seriously impaired…” if Britain leaves the EU. Hey! Did you see his lips move??? Was that an offer we cannot refuse?”

Could be! One thing is for sure, I cannot be confused by anyone or anything  … I am too stupid!

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