By Dr Joseph Garcia, Leader of the Liberal Party
I have served as a Member of Parliament for 24 years and as Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar for nearly 12. This term of office has been particularly difficult with a series of very unique challenges combining to create a perfect storm. Having the right experience to deal with such unpredictable scenarios must carry with it considerable weight in this general election.
We all know that Gibraltar has been impacted by a series of external events which have required all my GSLP/Liberal colleagues in office to dig deep into their resolve in their determination to keep Gibraltar safe. Any government, if lucky, might not have to face any such challenge during a term of office, or maybe to do so only once. It is easy to forget that we have already had to manage several.
We have had to deal with the effect of a global pandemic which represented a threat to life, to our economy and, at one point, to our very existence.
We have had to deal with the unprecedented departure of a Member State from the European Union, unfortunately the United Kingdom, which has impacted on every area of our everyday lives, and on the border with Spain in particular.
We have had to deal with the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the escalating cost of fuel and the knock-on effect on the price of food and other household items.
If that were not enough, there have been disruptions to our water supply after a fire in a tunnel and the challenge posed by a collision between merchant vessels in the Bay. We have not had a quiet moment over these past four years!
Throughout all this, the all-consuming negotiations for Gibraltar’s future relationship with the European Union have continued to take up a considerable amount of our time. We should remember that the EU only agreed to talk about the future treaty in October 2021 and that this decision was influenced by other external events which slowed down the proceedings and, at times, threatened to derail the process altogether.
It goes without saying that the outcome of these negotiations will profoundly impact our economy, trade relationships, and the well-being of our people. In these uncertain times, steady and experienced leadership is paramount. Experience does matter, especially when dealing with highly complex negotiations like those with the EU.
Fabian and I have been tirelessly engaged in these negotiations, and our track record speaks for itself. We have already kept Gibraltar safe through the package of measures agreed first with the UK in 2018. This secured market access for our online gaming and insurance industry, lower tuition fees for our students and free elective healthcare for our patients.
The package of measures we then agreed with the EU and Spain secured Gibraltar’s inclusion in the Withdrawal Agreement and provided the benefit of a transitional period. This meant that we did not crash out of the EU before the UK itself left. Indeed, we also enjoyed a package of unilateral bridging measures extended by Spain to cushion the impact of our EU exit.
We have demonstrated that we can keep Gibraltar safe. We have also been consistent and firm in our approach.
But we are not there yet. Gibraltar is now at a critical juncture, with the negotiations delicately poised until the electoral process here and in Spain come to an end. We have already demonstrated our commitment to finding a safe, secure and beneficial treaty, and with your support, we will continue our efforts to conclude negotiations with the UK, the EU, and Spain.
A treaty will come quicker with the same negotiators in place. The progress we have achieved so far should not be put at risk by a sudden change in leadership. Continuity will protect the positive momentum we have built in the negotiations and allow us to make full use of the personal contacts that we have established. Now is not the time to change that.
Let us finish what we started.
Vote for the ten GSLP/Liberal candidates on Thursday 12 October!