On the cusp of a deal
Gibraltar appears poised on the cusp of an agreement that could lay the foundations for a stable, prosperous future outside the European Union – not just for the Rock but for the neighbouring region too.
Leaving the EU was not something we wanted, but this is a nimble, resilient community that knew how to pull together and face up to the challenge.
The Brexit landscape is chaotic. There are major areas of disagreement on the road to a Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU, not least the future of Northern Ireland’s border with Ireland.
And even if those gaps can be bridged, UK politics is in a state of upheaval. Only the foolhardy would dare predict how events might unfold between now and the weekend, let alone in the coming weeks and months.
But amid that continued uncertainty, there are clear signs that Gibraltar is close to agreeing the terms under which it will be included in the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement and any transitional arrangements – assuming, of course, the wider deal is hammered out between now and November.
Getting to this point has taken months of delicate, discreet, nerve-wracking and intense top-level negotiations in Gibraltar, London, Madrid, Brussels – and one or two other EU capitals too.
Gibraltar has always been willing to engage in dialogue that respects our unshakeable red lines on British sovereignty. But navigating the turbulent maelstrom of Brexit has not been easy.
In parallel to these difficult, complex talks, the Gibraltar Government has secured solid commitments from the UK guaranteeing continued market access for crucial sectors of our economy.
It has been no mean feat for a community of 32,000 people.
Brexit is a mess, of that there is no doubt. If there were to be a re-run of the referendum tomorrow – one can but hope - most of us would still probably vote to remain in the EU.
Absent that unlikely scenario, however, Gibraltar appears to be on as solid a footing as it could hope for as it hurtles alongside the UK toward the EU exit door.
The journey is far from over though. Everything could still go south, not just in terms of Gibraltar’s specific arrangements, but also in respect of the wider negotiations.
And even if all the pieces fall into place in the coming weeks, this is just the beginning. There will be much wrangling ahead, but opportunity too.
We must remain optimistic, but cautiously so.
And we must continue to prepare for the possibility that, despite all these efforts, the UK and Gibraltar could still crash out of the EU without a cushion to soften the landing.