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Gibraltar vote ‘could swing EU referendum’

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If recent UK polls are anything to go by Gibraltar’s 23,000 voters might be the ones to swing the vote to remain in the European Union, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has said.

The EU ‘club’ works for Gibraltar, Mr Picardo wrote in an opinion piece for London newspaper City AM, adding: “Why on earth would we choose to slide back down the ladder to start all over again? That’s why we will overwhelmingly vote to remain.”

“There have been moments in recent weeks when polls on the outcome of the June 23 EU referendum have been so close that I have wondered if, just maybe, the 23,000 voters I represent as chief minister of Gibraltar might be the ones that swing the vote to Remain,” he wrote.

Gibraltar’s politicians being, uniquely, united on the issue, the message was echoed by GSD MP Trevor Hammond.

In an opinion piece for this newspaper, Mr Hammond wrote: “Do not believe that our voice cannot make a difference because if the result is as close as polls indicate there is no knowing how important our vote will be.”

“Regardless of the outcome it is essential that Gibraltar speak be unified and sends the strongest possible message to the British Government.”

“That we are of a single mind to remain within the EU and that should we be forced to leave because of the result, we expect you, we oblige you to look after our best interests, that is the view of all the people of Gibraltar,” Mr Hammond added.

SPAIN

Reflecting on Spain, Mr Picardo said that making life miserable at the border is “just one of Madrid’s party tricks”.

However, Gibraltar’s membership of the EU with the UK has meant Spain has had to recognise that the border must operate to the standards of an internal EU border.

“One Spanish right-wing politician, who I know does not have our best interests at heart and whose father served as a minister for Franco, has suggested in the media that we are mistaken in backing the Remain campaign and that we should have remained neutral and watched the way the wind blows,” he wrote.

That same politician, Mr Picardo added, knows that Spain’s aggressive stance towards the Rock is only one of the reasons why, according to a recent Chronicle poll, at least 85 per cent will turn out to vote and 88 per cent of them vote to stay in Europe.

“Spain’s right-wing People’s Party government has been hell-bent on treating us like squatters in our own land, squeezing our economy where it can and trying to cut us off,” he wrote. “We are here to stay.”

He underscored that whatever happens, the Rock’s future is with the UK and in remaining British.

RANSOM

Mr Hammond warned that Spain could hold the British Government ‘to ransom’ should it come to post-Brexit negotiations with the EU.

He stated that in the event of a vote to leave the EU the UK's highest priority will be to begin and complete negotiation of a trade deal with the EU.

“This is somewhat ironic as it would find itself in effect trying to rejoin the club it has just voted to leave,” he said.

These negotiations will be both protracted and difficult but vital to the economies of Britain and many EU countries, pressures to succeed, and in the shortest time possible, will be enormous.

“However, no one really knows how these negotiations will proceed; what we do know is that our neighbours will be at that table and that no deal can be struck without the agreement of the Spanish Government at European Council level,” Mr Hammond said.

“There will be many elements to this deal that will be important to Spain, the Spanish economy and many Spanish nationals, this however has never been a deterrent to Spanish Governments historically and when presented with this once in a lifetime opportunity to push the British Government for concessions over Gibraltar, does anyone believe that they won't try their utmost to apply pressure, effectively holding the British Government to ransom?”

See opinion on page 4, print and E-Editions