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Government continues Brexit contingency planning, but scales back meetings

An anti-Brexit protester holds a placard outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The Gibraltar Government will continue with its Brexit contingency planning, although it follow the UK’s lead and scale back on meetings after the EU granted an extension to the Brexit deadline.

In a statement the Government said it has decided to take advantage of the extension to the Brexit deadline in order to continue to progress with separate work streams in preparation for both a deal and for a no deal Brexit.

The Prime Minister has said that preparations for a no deal outcome must continue, though with sensibly adjusted timescales given the extension that has been agreed.

The Brexit Strategy Group of the Gibraltar Government met yesterday morning chaired by the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia.

The meeting also included the Chief Secretary Darren Grech, the Deputy Collector of Customs Paul Villalta, the Civil Contingencies Coordinator Ivor Lopez, Principal Secretary to the DCM Caine Sanchez, Parliamentary Counsel Paul Peralta and Janine Galliano from the Ministry of the Environment.

The Attorney General Michael Llamas and Legal Officer Daniel D’Amato joined the meeting from Brussels.

In line with the approach outlined by the Prime Minister, it was agreed that the Brexit Executive Group which is chaired by the Chief Secretary, will for now meet fortnightly instead of weekly.

There was a review of the current position with reports on the different work streams, in particular reports on the supply chain, commerce, critical services, health and social care, law and order, public services, legislation and data protection.

The meeting was also informed about a confidential discussion with different large and medium sized food retailers that took place last week.

Although an extension to the EU departure has been granted to October 31 this does not mean that the United Kingdom and Gibraltar cannot leave before then.

The UK can leave at any time if the UK Parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement which was concluded in November 2018.

“We could also leave on 31 May without an agreement, if the United Kingdom chooses not to hold European elections,” the Government said adding that that eventuality is very unlikely because both the UK and Gibraltar have started to make legal and administrative preparations for these elections.

Nonetheless, if the Withdrawal Agreement were to be adopted before the date for European elections then the UK could then leave with an Agreement obviating the need for such elections.
The Government has therefore decided to use the extension in order to enhance contingency planning measures.

“The work done up to date means that Gibraltar is better prepared than ever before,” the Government said.

“It has also assisted wider planning and procurement strategies unrelated to Brexit and has helped to cement the working relationship between individual departments of the United Kingdom and Gibraltar Governments.”

“This close contact is in itself extremely positive given the negotiations on the future relationship which may come our way.”

Dr Garcia said: “The preferred option for the Government is a revocation of Article 50 with both the United Kingdom and Gibraltar remaining in the European Union as we are now. We would also support a further vote on the matter given the knowledge of the full consequences of EU departure that are known now were not readily apparent in June 2016.

“However, we have a duty to prepare Gibraltar for our departure from the European Union in the eventuality that it were to happen with a Withdrawal Agreement or without it. The Government is very grateful to the different teams of dedicated public servants that have worked extremely hard to make sure that Gibraltar continues to prepare effectively for a possible EU exit.”

Pic by REUTERS/Peter Nicholls