UK and Gibraltar face huge uncertainty outside EU
by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo
Gibraltar has been a bastion of the British way of life on the Mediterranean for more than 300 years. Its role as a strategic British military base is well-known and under our watch, that will continue. But Gibraltar is now so much more. From its modern financial services centre, to its unique British Gibraltarian culture, from its amazing tourist sites and new University, to its increasing links to UK airports – Gibraltar is booming.
Not so long ago, British military spending dominated Gibraltar’s economy. It’s still an important area, but times have changed and now it accounts for less than five per cent of Gibraltar’s fast growing GDP. Financial services, tourism, insurance, gaming and commercial port services are all now mainstays of this modern and dynamic economy. This impressive transformation in Gibraltar’s economic strength is a testament to the hard work of Gibraltar’s people and businesses. We applaud their creativity, ingenuity and industry.
Through its thriving economy, growing reputation as a cultural hub and its commitment to global standards of international tax transparency, Gibraltar is now an economic motor for its region and a modern, multicultural and environmentally conscious society. This is why the Prime Minister invited the Chief Minister to his Anti-Corruption Summit in London today, 12 May.
Thousands of workers travel from Spain every day to contribute to businesses on the Rock. This means more prosperity in Gibraltar and across the surrounding Spanish region. Research has shown that a staggering half a billion pounds of additional output in the region around the Rock could be attributed to Gibraltar – that’s a success story that benefits everyone in the area.
Open and equal cooperation between the UK, Gibraltar and Spain is more important than ever. In our ever-more interconnected global economy, it would be natural for all three parties to work together to focus on the prosperity and security of all of our people. The UK and Gibraltar stand ready to work with the Spanish government, with the ultimate aim of a return to the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue.
Our meeting yesterday on the Rock comes at a crucial time for Gibraltar. It is absolutely right that Gibraltarians are able to vote in the EU referendum; Gibraltar’s status in the EU and its continued economic well-being relies on UK membership. The choice facing people in the UK and Gibraltar next month is one of the most important decisions we will all make in our lifetimes.
We believe the UK and Gibraltar are stronger, safer and better off in a reformed European Union. An open frontier and access to the single market of 500 million people has transformed Gibraltar’s economy for the better. Finance and gaming sectors, which provide 27% of employment, rely on being able to offer services across the EU. We should not put that at risk.
Leaving the EU would mean huge uncertainty for the UK and Gibraltar. For Gibraltar’s economy, with its regional status and its role as a strategic economic gateway into the Mediterranean - it is a risk that is not worth taking. There is no doubt that the UK and Gibraltar Governments would work together to defend Gibraltar’s interests, as we do now, regardless of the outcome. But we cannot be certain what the relationship with the EU would look like, nor how long it would take to negotiate agreements on trade, security, aviation, tax and the other subjects that are critical to the Gibraltar economy.
Whatever happens in the EU referendum, the relationship between Gibraltar and the UK will endure. The UK will continue to defend its sovereignty over Gibraltar, and the security of all Gibraltarians. The UK will never enter arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, nor enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.
The bottom line is very simple. We believe that voting to remain in the EU would give British citizens, in both Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, the best of both worlds. At a time of great uncertainty around the world, including in the Mediterranean region, the EU referendum is an opportunity for the UK and Gibraltar to stand tall in the world, together, to maintain our prosperity and security. We therefore urge all those who care about Gibraltar’s future to vote ‘remain’ on 23 June.