Girling highlights Rock issues in Brexit piece for Times
Gibraltar’s Brexit priorities must be a central part of the UK’s plan for exiting the EU, Gibraltar MEP Julie Girling has said as she called for more consideration to be given to impact of Brexit on the Rock.
In an opinion piece for The Times, Ms Girling flagged how the Prime Minister, Theresa May, had set a ‘clear path’ for the UK: a hard Brexit that will remove the UK from the EU’s single market.
“Much has been written about the consequences for the economy, the Union, and the Irish border. Less consideration has been given to the impact on Gibraltar,” she said.
Gibraltar’s economy, she said, is very much reliant on free movement, with around half of the total workforce commuting across the border each day. These workers faced significant disruption when the Spanish government introduced stringent border checks in 2013.
“Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of Spain, has already told Theresa May that, whatever deal the UK negotiates with the EU, no special EU arrangements should apply to the Rock unless it signs up to a sovereignty deal.”
Ms Girling said she therefore sees “multiple dangers ahead for Gibraltar”, including the loss of single market access; potential new border controls; a Spanish government with the ability to close or interfere with the Gibraltar Spain border as part of Brexit negotiations.
“Make no mistake, the Spanish government has already shown us that they will sacrifice their own citizens’ economic wellbeing to make a political point,” she said.
Ms Girling describes retaining free movement of people as “important”.
She said: “Gibraltar recognises and encourages this free flow of people as fundamental to the proper functioning of its economy.”
“Any stringent border controls would give Spain a brand new opportunity to lock Gibraltarians, and Spanish citizens, out at the border.”
“This must be avoided.”
The Conservative MEP argued that the UK government should commit to ensuring that there will be no new border restrictions for Gibraltar in the same way that it has with Northern Ireland.
Securing maximum freedom for Gibraltar to participate in the single market is also essential, she said pointing to the Rock’s service dominated economy.
Minimising the risk of joint sovereignty over Gibraltar must of course be a priority, she said emphasising that only the Gibraltarian people will determine Gibraltar’s future.
“Their enormous enthusiasm for both the UK and EU should be respected during the negotiations, and the UK government should guarantee that it will not agree to tradeoffs or quidproquos that harm Gibraltar or treat it as collateral damage.”
“Certainly, the UK government must not agree to anything which dilutes Gibraltar’s sovereignty we must protect their right to self determination.”
Ms Girling further underscored the importance of representation for Gibraltar.
Describing it as “vital” she said Gibraltarian representatives should continue to be included and consulted at every stage of the UK’s negotiations with the EU where decisions may affect them, to guarantee the territory’s interests and to ensure that its status in the EU can be as protected as possible.
“It is ironic that many of those in the UK parliament who are strong supporters of Gibraltar are also enthusiastic Brexiters.”
“Now is the time for them to come forward with practical solutions, not just messages of support.”