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Opinion & Analysis

‘It is right for our political leaders and others to point out those things that we should rightly fear’

by former Chief Minister Sir Peter Caruana to the people of Gibraltar

Since standing down from active politics I have avoided getting involved in political debates. But the very serious threats posed to the fundamental interests of Gibraltar and our children and grandchildren by Brexit requires that I do so.

The Leave campaign says that the Remain campaign is “spreading fear”.

When you are small and not very powerful, like Gibraltar, it is sometimes right to be fearful of greater powers that threaten you. This is such an occasion for Gibraltar, and it is right for our political leaders and others to point out those things that we should rightly fear. And we should fear Brexit, for both political and economic reasons.

It will have very significant adverse effects on our future prospects in both areas. Please do not be swayed by the argument by Leavers that outside the EU Britain will be better able to defend our Sovereignty. Forty years of bitter experiences have taught us differently. Think incursions into our waters, exclusions from aviation measures and a multitude of international sporting and cultural bodies and international treaties.

Britain is thankfully firm in its commitment not to transfer our sovereignty to Spain against our wishes. But beyond that, historically, her record in taking practical measures to support us in specific issues is notoriously poor.

We do not know what Spain might choose to do if the UK (and Gibraltar) leave the EU. But one thing is absolutely clear, Spain will be freed of all considerations of EU law and of her EU obligations and our EU rights in making her choices and decisions in respect of her behaviour towards us. In Britain the campaign is whether the UK can do things better in or out of the EU. Here in Gibraltar the real issue is whether Spain can more easily take steps against us if we are in or out of the EU.

The EU is the only real external impediment to Spain’s freedom of action. Spain will be legally free to operate the frontier as she pleases. She will be legally free to exclude our online gaming, financial services and other businesses from operating in Spain if she chooses to do so.

These things would very adversely affect our economy and our quality of life here. There is nothing that Britain could do to protect us from these things. For more than 30 years successive Gibraltar Governments have worked hard to reposition and refocus our economy to one based on the benefits and advantages that come only with membership of the EU. If we leave the EU, the whole basis of our economic model is destroyed and there will be significant job losses and a fall in Government revenue.

Falling Government revenue will mean belt-tightening by the Government, higher taxes and even an end to some of those free or cheaper things that government does for us all today, like public housing, cheaper electricity and water, and free university education, among other things that we cherish.

Today in Gibraltar we enjoy a fantastic standard of living, and quality of life, because of the economic opportunities that membership of the EU has given us.

Why would we put that in jeopardy? And perhaps more importantly, why would we deny our children and grandchildren the opportunity to enjoy the same high standard of living that we have enjoyed as a result of our EU membership?

As someone who has during 16 years as Chief Minister contributed to the best of my ability to the creation of today’s successful and prosperous society, and politically more secure Gibraltar, I urge you all to vote at the referendum, and to vote Remain.

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