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Picardo and Feetham in call for unity after Brexit vote

Gibraltar will never be Spanish, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told the Gibraltar Parliament yesterday as he called for unity in the wake of the EU referendum vote.

His message was echoed by Opposition leader Daniel Feetham, who highlighted the need for a workable road map for the future.

The two men delivered short speeches after the UK voted by four percentage points to leave the European Union in Thursday’s historic referendum.

The idea of sharing sovereignty between Britain and Spain will never prosper, Mr Picardo said yesterday afternoon as he hit out at the "irrelevant noises" from Spain questioning Gibraltar's future.

He was referring to Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, who said in a radio interview that he hoped "co-sovereignty" of Gibraltar and "the Spanish flag on the Rock" were much closer to happening after the vote.

But addressing Parliament yesterday, Mr Picardo said: "Let me be absolutely clear. Despite the noises that are bound to be made by some in the neighbouring nation - indeed some have already been made this morning - this government is confident in the support from the British Government that there will be no talks or even talks about talks against the express wishes of the people of Gibraltar in respect of the sovereignty of Gibraltar.”

"So let others make irrelevant noises about flying flags over a rock if they want to waste their breath. Such ideas will never prosper.”

"Gibraltar will never pay a sovereignty price for access to a market. Gibraltar will never be Spanish, in whole, in part or at all."

In the face of potential uncertainty following the vote, Mr Picardo said he is "entirely confident that the core elements of our economy and our government's public finances remain sounder than ever".

Redirecting and protecting the economy will be the main focus now, he said.

“Let me tell the public today that we know that we are able to deliver on our manifesto commitments on economic growth in the lifetime of this Parliament. Of that we have no doubt.”

He announced plans to meet with the Gibraltar Gaming & Betting Association and the Gibraltar Finance Centre Council but said he had been “hugely encouraged” by the support already expressed by a number of gaming companies who confirm that Brexit does not change their commitment to remaining in Gibraltar.

The market that matters most to them is the United Kingdom; he said adding that the establishment of a common market between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom has been the main issue they have long been working on with the UK.

“We are confident that this is entirely achievable,” he told the House as he also outlined plans to meet with the Federation of Small Businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, the unions and the Grupo Transfronterizo which includes all of these groups and others from the Campo.

“I will also look to forming working groups and committees which will include members and others where these can help chart the way ahead in a new world outside the EU,” he said as he called on the public to resist “knee jerk or rush reactions” to what is undeniably a momentous decision.

PLAN B

As the Government was “vigorously” campaigning for a Remain vote it was also making preparations in the event of a Brexit, the Chief Minister said.

“The top priority has been in working towards a sustainable alternative economic model and making best use of the time we have now to position Gibraltar’s economy whilst the complex task of uncoupling the UK from the EU and building new trading and political relations take place.”

Mr Feetham, in an address of his own, underscored the need to develop a “positive and workable road map for the future”.

“That is what we will concentrate on doing; hopefully, working with the Government to devise that road map as equal partners on a non-partisan and transparent basis,” he said.

The creation of a non-partisan road map, Mr Feetham said, will help confidence and create a measure of certainty that Gibraltar’s businesses and people need.

The Rock’s immediate focus must be to obtain guarantees from the UK that Gibraltar will be included in any trade deals negotiated with third parties, any renegotiated access to the Single Market and unrestricted access to the UK market in areas such as insurance, financial services and gaming, the Leader of the Opposition said.

He underscored that this situation is not one of Gibraltar’s making and said the UK Government, particularly one that is led by Brexiteers, owes a duty to the people of Gibraltar to ensure they are not left behind and that Gibraltar does not suffer economic damage.

Mr Feetham called for early guarantees from the United Kingdom saying this will ensure certainty and stability in Gibraltar.

“Gibraltar has always prevailed even in the most difficult of circumstances and I am confident that we can work through future difficulties. And that we will be able to maintain and defend the Gibraltarian way of life,” he said.

“Our community has a strength of purpose and resilience to overcome adversity again and together we will again prevail.”

Mr Feetham said he wanted the people of Gibraltar to know that he and his colleagues will be working hard to ensure that Gibraltar is kept safe, secure and prosperous.

At noon yesterday Mr Feetham arrived at No. 6 Convent Place flanked by his GSD colleagues Trevor Hammond and Roy Clinton for a meeting with the Chief Minister.

“For the good of Gibraltar, we have agreed to work together in order to face the challenges that the vote to exit the European Union will bring,” Mr Picardo reported back of their meeting.

“This is a time to put egos aside and work together as some of our predecessors here did for the benefit of our community as a whole,” he added.

“I have no doubt members opposite will do so.”

An outline of the substance of what needs to be done has been agreed, the Chief Minister said, although this will no doubt require further work as events develop in coming weeks and months.

“I intend to discuss with the Cabinet the mechanism and the formula through which this cooperation between Government and Opposition will take place.”

Mr Picardo also, later, spoke with the independent Member, Marlene Hassan Nahon and said he has no doubt that he can count on her support as the Government deals with the issues that now arise.

The Chief Minister added that the result of the referendum vote in Gibraltar serve to “fully reinforce the unity with which we stood on this issue”

“Our clear and unequivocal statement as a people will now be a critical element in helping us to best shape the political and economic interests of Gibraltar in the months to come.”

“The British Government and the people of the United Kingdom have heard the clear message from the people of Gibraltar that we aspire to the continued freedom of movement of people, services and capital throughout the EU.”

“The British Government are deeply aware of that and of the fact that it falls on them to help us mitigate the negative impact of leaving Europe as we also focus on capitalising on the positives that will also emerge.”

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