Gibraltar ‘will ride out Brexit’, Picardo tells Spanish students
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo sketched a positive vision of Gibraltar’s future outside the European Union in an address to Spanish students yesterday, describing the Rock as “a cork” that would ride out the Brexit storm.
Addressing the University of Málaga’s summer course in Marbella, Mr Picardo said Gibraltarians remained committed Europeans who nevertheless had to adapt to the result of the UK referendum on EU membership.
Using data first presented during the recent budget session in the Gibraltar Parliament, the Chief Minister said Gibraltar’s economy had performed well in the wake of the Brexit vote and was now seeking new opportunities outside the EU.
He also delivered a robust defence of Gibraltar’s record on fiscal transparency, explaining that Spain – which has refused to sign a bilateral tax information exchange agreement with Gibraltar – was the only country that classed Gibraltar as “a tax haven”.
In underlining his point, Mr Picardo said Gibraltar had last week become the first European jurisdiction to establish a central register of beneficial ownership under the fourth anti-money laundering directive.
Not only that, the first request for information from that register had been received at the weekend and processed within 13 hours, the Chief Minister said.
Mr Picardo also underlined the deep socio-economic relationship between Gibraltar and the Campo, adding that it was important to focus on developing that relationship and opportunities for growth.
“Even outside the EU, Gibraltar will continue to be prosperous and will continue growing,” he said.
“It’s not that we’ve discovered a magical secret.”
“Gibraltar is a small economy and it’s easy to reposition it.”
He added: “If there’s a storm coming and you’re a small cork, you might get wet but you’re not going to sink if you’re a good seaman.”
“Gibraltar is a small cork.”
Despite his optimism, Mr Picardo acknowledged that the result of the referendum had been a blow to Gibraltar.
He said his government had explored the possibility of “a different status” for Gibraltar within the Brexit process, adding that this might have been possible “with a little creativity”.
But he said Spain had pegged its hopes on joint sovereignty, something that the Gibraltarians would not countenance. That meant Gibraltar would leave the EU along with the UK.
“It’s not what the people of Gibraltar would have wanted,” he told the students.
“We remain convinced that the European project is the best thing for the European continent. We are very European in Gibraltar.”
“But we have to accept and adapt to the result of the UK’s referendum.
Asked about citizens’ rights, Mr Picardo said all EU workers in Gibraltar would continue to enjoy the same rights, irrespective of what transpired in the UK. This is a position his government had made clear from the outset.
But he added that Spain’s insistence on a double-veto – a position accepted by the EU in its guidelines – meant that any future agreement between the UK and the EU would not automatically apply to Gibraltar.
That could potentially impact on EU nationals who come to work in Gibraltar after the UK leaves the EU.
“If part of any future agreement is not applied to us, then we are not going to apply it in Gibraltar either,” Mr Picardo said.
“It’s what the Spanish Government has chosen.”
“I still don’t understand why it thinks that’s a good policy for the interests of its citizens in the region.”
Mr Picardo also reminded students that both Gibraltar and the UK remain committed to the trilateral process, but that Spain had withdrawn.
“If there’s no dialogue, then there’s no possibility of resolving problems,” the Chief Minister said.
He also urged the students to look beyond media headlines about Gibraltar, particularly in the summer months.
These headlines, he said, “…do not represent the everyday reality of the relationship between Gibraltar and the Campo, which is an important and close relationship.”
“People on both sides of the border have the same hopes and fears,” he said.