Four years on, Govt ‘working with ambition for sensible Brexit’ solution
On the fourth anniversary of the Brexit Referendum, the Gibraltar Government yesterday reflected on that outcome, the nature and extent of work since then and its determination to achieve a “sensible solution” to the Brexit challenge.
In a statement the Government reiterated how the outcome of the referendum was not supported by the vast majority of the people of Gibraltar, including all the political parties and the main representative organisations.
Brexit, it said, was a bad result for Gibraltar, for the United Kingdom and for the European Union as a whole.
Despite this the Government said it fully respected the result and had set out to work in a constructive manner in order to protect the best interests of Gibraltar and its people.
Additionally, despite the heavy workload arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government said it had “never taken our eye off the Brexit ball” and had continued to monitor all developments and to take whatever action was necessary.
The core Brexit team, which remains to this day, has from the outset consisted of the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister, the Attorney General and the Financial Secretary.
But the huge logistical exercise of preparing for EU exit included many other public servants, count-less documents and over five hundred meetings in Gibraltar, London, Brussels and Spain.
The Government flagged how, early on in the process, there had been “a very real risk” that Gibraltar would be excluded from the Withdrawal Treaty and from the transitional period.
The Government said it successfully addressed that challenge and, through a Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement, four MoUs and a Tax Treaty, secured the inclusion of Gibraltar in the UK-EU exit arrangements including in the transition.
But those agreements, in particular the tax treaty, have drawn criticism in Gibraltar, where the Opposition has expressed concern that aspects of the deals will prove damaging to Gibraltar in the long term.
According to the Government some of the preparations for no-deal have proved to be very useful for Gibraltar in different scenarios, and will continue to be so in the event that the UK and EU do not agree the framework for a future relationship.
The Government, four years after the referendum vote, has started work on the future relationship also.
This, it said, has covered many months of discussions and meetings with the United Kingdom.
More recently Gibraltar attended a “positive meeting” in Malaga with the UK and with Spain, although few details have been made public about the discussions.
The Government said “it is no secret” that there is considerable economic interdependence between Gibraltar and the region next door.
There are some 15,000 persons who live in Spain and who work in Gibraltar, making the Rick the second largest employer for the region of Andalucia, after its regional administration.
Gibraltar residents also spend over £70 million a year in goods and services in Spain.
Gibraltarians with second homes in Spain make an annual contribution of over £62 million to the Spanish economy and Gibraltar imports over 1.5 billion euros a year from Spain.
This makes Gibraltar the largest export market for the province of Cadiz, ahead of the United Kingdom and France. Indeed, the data suggests that Gibraltar contributes some 20% of the GDP of the Campo area next door.
“This means that decades of EU membership have created a close economic relationship between both sides of the border,” the Government said.
“It is important for all involved that this is not lost as we move forward to agree a future relationship with the EU. Indeed, in the right circumstances, the shared prosperity that already exists could be expanded and extended even further.”
“It is in the interests of all sides to make sure that there is a sensible solution in place once the transitional period comes to an end.”
It added: “The Government is committed to work tirelessly on our future relationship with the Euro-pean Union, with the same degree of ambition, energy and enthusiasm, that we have displayed in the past.”