EU Referendum: A Ministerial Statement by the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo
I address you as your Chief Minister in a Ministerial Statement because as from tomorrow the broadcasting rules relating to the EU referendum will not allow me to do so on our national broadcaster.
My address to you is unprecedented as I speak to you, not just on behalf of the Government, but on behalf of all your elected members of Parliament.
The message I am delivering to you has been approved by the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Europe, Joseph Garcia, and the Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Feetham.
Indeed, I can confirm that I speak tonight also with the support of all my surviving predecessors as Chief Minister; Peter Caruana, Joe Bossano and Adolfo Canepa.
All of them have approved this message also.
In the coming weeks we will hear the arguments of the competing campaigns for and against the United Kingdom, and with it Gibraltar, remaining within the European Union.
On the 23rd of June Gibraltarians and all other British, Commonwealth and Irish citizens resident in Gibraltar will be able to vote in that referendum.
I and all the people who have approved this message will be asking you to vote in favour of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union.
This is also the position of Gibraltar’s three largest unions, Unite, the GGCA and the Gibraltar Teachers’ Association.
Together they represent the majority of workers in Gibraltar.
It is also the position of the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses and of the Board of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce.
Together, they represent the majority of the businesses and employers in our economy.
Gibraltar has been united in the past on issues relating to our sovereignty. But we have never before seen such unprecedented unity on what is not, at least directly, an attack on our British Sovereignty.
And we are united for a reason.
Because our joint assessment is that Gibraltar’s best interests are best served by remaining in the European Union.
Membership of the EU allows our businesses to sell their services throughout the single market.
And it allows us freedom of personal movement throughout the EU.
Although our free movement is sometimes hampered by the Spanish Government’s measures at the frontier, the EU Treaties have been the only way we have been able to insist on a legal route to enforce our rights.
That is not to say the European Union is perfect.
For example, the European Commission has failed to act with the speed or with the clarity required to really show it is defending the treaty rights of persons crossing our frontier.
The Commission has also failed to act decisively to enforce our rights to access the single sky aspects of the EU.
But the fact is that the European Treaties avail us of a defence mechanism against many of the aggressive measures that some in the Spanish Government have tried and may again wish to try against Gibraltar.
Or to put it another way, without these EU obligations to us, Spain would almost have a free hand against us. Remember the scheme by the La Linea municipality under the Partido Popular to try to charge us a toll to enter Spain?
That became a policy of the Spanish national government when the PP formed Government in Madrid.
That measure, like other unjustified measures, were in effect stopped only because of our EU membership and our rights under the treaties establishing the European Union.
You have already heard the current Spanish Foreign Minister say that if the result of the referendum is for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, they would expect to “talk about Gibraltar the next day”.
Already the message from Madrid is that a vote to leave the EU will result in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar being told that the price we would have to pay to continue to have access to the single market would be to accept Joint Sovereignty with Spain. I know none of us will ever accept joint sovereignty, whether for access to the single market or for any other inducement.
Neither will we accept that we can be bullied or blackmailed into giving up our British Sovereignty.
But the fact that the Spanish Government see such huge advantages from the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union is evidence enough of why we must avoid it.
For that reason, Sñr Margallo has usefully by his recent statements helped demonstrate how the referendum question is indirectly, in effect, related to the issue of our Sovereignty.
That alone is no doubt a hugely persuasive reason for you to go out to vote to stay in the European Union.
If the result of the referendum is that the United Kingdom nonetheless decides to leave the
European Union, what will happen then?
First of all, we must be able to show that we in Gibraltar have not contributed to that result.
We must be able to point to a massive turnout of those eligible to vote here.
So please ensure you are registered to vote and that you make arrangements to vote if you will be away from Gibraltar.
And we must be able to point to a vote which is as clear and robust as possible to stay in the EU.
That will help us to make the moral case, if it happens, that exiting the EU is not of our making and that the United Kingdom must, more than ever, assist us in resolving such issues as we may face as a result.
And let’s be clear, of course we shall survive, whatever the outcome.
But think of the huge achievements we have seen over the past 30 years, the high quality of life we have achieved.
The way we live, do business, educate and look after our children and prosper.
We are the envy of many.
Why put that at risk?
Why pursue a more uncertain path for our children?
Of course we can and shall survive, whatever the outcome.
Gibraltar’s resistance and hard work will see us through. But few places in the western world, let alone the rest of our globe, have the educational support, university opportunities and funding, high quality employment, workers’ rights and progress that we enjoy in Gibraltar.
The economic model that delivers those benefits is based on our EU membership.
Past generations of Gibraltarians have lived through real austerity. Many of them are the same people who devoted their lives to bringing these better opportunities to our people and to us, their children and grandchildren.
Together all of us have built this British Gibraltar. And together we have reaped the benefits of membership of the European Union.
Gibraltar has had to fight for its rights in the EU. We have had to fight to vote in European Union parliamentary elections.
And we have had to fight to secure passporting of financial services.
None of these important rights we now enjoy have just fallen into our laps.
Successive Governments and Chief Minister have fought first for membership of the EEC and then for fairness in the EU.
So we should not put ourselves in a position where we have to fight again for these and other rights we already enjoy today.
All the more reason why we must remain and retain the benefits we have already secured.
In the coming weeks, listen carefully to the rational case being put by the Gibraltar Stronger In Campaign.
Joseph Garcia, Daniel Feetham and I have signed up to support their campaign.
Listen carefully to the logical arguments they are putting.
They are right to make the positive case for staying in the European Union.
Listen carefully to the dangers of leaving the EU that the Stronger In Campaign highlight.
They are also right to point to the obvious pitfalls of leaving.
Those who are campaigning to leave will put their arguments also.
But I know that aside from the respective campaigns in the referendum, you look to your political leaders also for our recommendations on issues such as this.
And so tonight, I ask you to trust my assessment on this fundamental issue. Trust the assessment of all my surviving predecessors as Chief Minister.
Trust the assessment of the Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia and the Leader of the
Opposition Daniel Feetham and our fellow parliamentarians.
I ask you to reflect on the fact that our joint assessment is supported by the Unions that represent our nation’s workers.
Weigh up the fact that our joint assessment is supported by the Boards of the Chamber of Commerce and Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses that represent our nation’s entrepreneurs and businesses.
Our unprecedented unity speaks for itself.
Past Chief Ministers.
All speaking with one voice
For Gibraltar’s sake.
For Gibraltar jobs.
For Gibraltar businesses.
To secure our continued prosperity.
To secure the future of our children.
To secure our nation’s vital interests.
I, and all of those who have approved this message urge each and everyone of you to go out and vote on the 23rd of June for the United Kingdom and Gibraltar to remain in the European Union.
This message was broadcast on GBC on April 14.