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Working group ponders Brexit challenge

The Gibraltar Government established a Brexit working group with the local business community and held its first meeting yesterday.

Although it is ‘business as usual’ for the Rock the group is working pre-emptively to combat concerns regarding the impact of Brexit. The potential common market between Gibraltar and the UK was discussed during the meeting with high hopes.

The group also underscored the need to “roll out the red carpet” for every business wishing to establish themselves locally.

The Minister for Business Neil Costa chaired the meeting that was attended by the Gibraltar Federation Small Businesses Chair Gemma Vasquez, Collector of Customs John Rodriguez, Self-Determination of Gibraltar Group Chair Richard Buttigieg, CEO of the Office of Fair Trading Francis Muscat and various business representatives.

“It is right that we should move immediately to carefully consider the consequences to Gibraltar businesses from a potential Brexit,” Mr Costa said. “As the public is fully aware, Gibraltar Government will not rest nor leave any stone unturned in doing all that it can to safeguard and protect Gibraltar’s present and future interests.”

He added: “The Minister for Brexit [David Davis] only last week stated that a common market between Gibraltar and the UK is to be analysed as a matter of urgency and that the UK is fully committed to promoting the interests of all Gibraltarians.

At the meeting Mr Costa asked the attendees to prepare written submissions of Brexit’s potential impact to their sectors and solutions. These submissions will be submitted to Deputy Chief Minister Dr Garcia and assessed by the government.

The idea behind of the group is to explore every option to strengthen the Rock’s economic position and the alternative business opportunities Brexit will provide.

After the meeting came to an end Mrs Vasquez told the Chronicle she supported the initiative and the business community now needs to move with the times.

“We can’t keep our heads in the sand,” Mrs Vasquez said. “We know we have to work very hard and move into different markets. We can’t sit on our laurels now and do what we have always done. We have always said it, we will survive but now is the time that we really have to get into gear and make ourselves as business friendly as humanly possible.”

She detailed the main concerns were whether Gibraltar could establish a common market with the UK and in what form this would take.

Mrs Vasquez added that on the Rock it is “business as usual” and trade has not been affected since the decision to leave the EU last month, but provisions need to be made ahead of negotiations.

Managing Director of Chestertons and Treasurer of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce Mike Nicholls said he was concerned about a possible border closure and locally employed Spanish workers.

“I have concerns for the Spanish residences of Gibraltar companies who pay tax in Gibraltar and then top up their tax in Spain,” Mr Nicholls said. “We are all scared that Madrid could close that border but I think there are also concerns of what they do with income tax to the employees of Gibraltar companies that live in Spain.”

For Mr Nicholls there is concern that Gibraltar has to become an island economy even if the border does not shut. He added that the sea port has to work far more than it is now as Gibraltar might be more reliant on freight coming in daily as opposed to weekly.

Mr Nicholls also called for further marketing and detail of the new tax laws.

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