Ladies and Gentlemen
Dear friends of Gibraltar all of you,
It is a pleasure to once again have the honour to host this excellent annual event in the City.
It is particularly pleasing to be able to host this event less than 20 days since we won the recent General Election in Gibraltar.
An election that renders Gibraltar a bastion of European political stability.
Our neighbours, Spain are on their fourth election in four years.
The United Kingdom is on its third in four years.
Meanwhile, back on the Rock, we are intent on the old tradition of elections just every 4 years delivering clear majorities in Parliament.
And, indeed, to add to the sense of political stabilty on the Rock, allow me the unusual step of paraphrasing the great Meatloaf in an otherwise serious speech.
It is undoubtedly political ‘paradise by the dash board light’ to be able to say that 3 out of 3 elections won ain’t bad at all!
What’s also not bad at all is to be able to report on constant and consistent economic growth in Gibraltar in the past 8 years since we took over Government, and in the years before also.
In the time for which we have been responsible for the management of our economy, it has grown by almost 100%.
Our GDP has gone from £1.2 Billion in 2011 to over £2.4 Billion now.
A growth of over £100% in eight years.
Not bad for a socialist government on the shores of the Mediterranean!
Registered unemployment is in the thirties.
And I am not talking percent – I am talking people.
A GDP to net debt ratio of approximately 12%.
And our plans for the next four years predict that in the worst possible Brexit outcome – the Project Fear scenario – and with the worst possible economic outlook for the world economy, that growth will continue.
Our Post Brexit Economic Plan conservatively estimates at least a continued 15% growth over the life of the next Parliament at the very least.
Without such a recession, without a hard Brexit or, if you will forgive me Minister, with no Brexit at all, our growth will be even higher.
And Brexit is not a subject we can avoid.
But it is a subject that, like most, has a silver lining we have identified for Gibraltar although it is also undoubtedly a cloud of sorts.
Brexit has brought us even closer to the United Kingdom.
It has reminded us, and Whitehall, of the underlying economic reality that 95% of all the services we sell in Gibraltar relying on EU Single Market rules we sell into the United Kingdom.
London – not Luxembourg – is our biggest client.
Manchester – not Madrid – is where our services are best understood.
The City and not the Commission is where we are most at home.
That does not change our views on Brexit.
I remain a remainer.
But we are democrats.
We accept the results of referenda as we do the results of General Elections.
And when the time of decision has come we have worked to ensure that our ability to continue to service you, our best clients, in the City and in the rest of the United Kingdom, has been honed to deliver in a post Single Market environment.
We have done that with the UK Government in a closer partnership than ever before in our history.
And whatever the result of the General Election on foot, we know that we will continue to enjoy that relationship going forward after the 12th December.
Because our support is across the partisan political divide.
It is in the business community as much as it is in the people of the United Kingdom.
And we stand ready to work with whoever is elected in London, whoever is elected in Madrid on Sunday and with the new teams taking up their posts in Brussels.
The UK has shown its confidence in us by guaranteeing that Gibraltar will continue to enjoy access to the UK market in services even after a potential departure from the European Union single market.
That confidence has been boosted even further by the conclusion of a Double Taxation Agreement between the UK and Gibraltar also for the first time ever.
And that comes hot on the heels of an International Tax Treaty we have entered into with Spain also, unbelievably, which does not in any way affect our tax sovereignty or materially change the rules of taxation applicable between us – but it does, at last, provide much greater clarity on the application of those rules.
All these three will be a great catalyst to do more and greater business in Gibraltar.
It confirms the huge confidence in Gibraltar made by financial institutions that have made the decision to invest and lend to the public and private sectors on the Rock.
Our business proposition has, in fact, been TURBO CHARGED by the DTA with the United Kingdom and the publication of the Financial Services Act in the Queens Speech two weeks ago.
It is worth quoting in this happy company one paragraph of HM Treasury’s notes to the Queens Speech which relates to Gibraltar.
One of the FAQs asks, rhetorically, who Gibraltar is to be the only one of the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to continue to enjoy long term market access to the UK, which is incidentally already provided for in the The Financial Services (Gibraltar) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
The Treasury answer is specific, clear and on point.
It’s because we are the only one of the OTs and CDs to enjoy it today under the rules of the Single Market.
I could not have put it better myself.
We are leaving the EU, but we are not leaving the Single Market between us and the UK.
Look at how far we have come.
I do not think anyone would have predicted eight years ago that a Chief Minister of Gibraltar would be quoting HMT authoritiatively on Gibraltar.
And that is a reflection of the partnership we have engendered with the United Kingdom, it’s Government and its Treasury.
In history we have been successful partners to mutual socio-economic benefit.
Let us now write the history of the future togerther to deliver continued success.
Continued mutual socio-economic benefit.
We will do so in a modern partnership of respect in which we make the Rock the best propositon for your business.
A partnership of responsibility and opportunity.
Balancing responsibility in responsible regulation, responsible practices on taxation and responsible governance with the opportunity we have created to open a business superhighway between.
A financial services superhighway.
An insurance services superhighway.
An electronic banking superhighway.
A digital services superhighway with junctions and turn offs to the blockchain, to Distrubted Ledger Technology and to the responsible online gaming space.
And all with an underlying emphasis on the highest standards of regulation, the highest standards of customer protection and the highest standards of client care.
Because we are not a place of light touch regulation.
We are a place of the right touch of regulation.
An approachable regulator is not a lenient regulator who sacrifice the consumer’s interests in favour of the traders.
It is a regulator who brings standards up through contact, dialogue and communication.
We are not a place of low level of tax.
We are a place of the right level of tax.
Tax fixed at a rate which is designed not to assist in evasion or avoidance but to meet the needs of the community on whose behalf we raise those taxes.
Because, let’s be clear, ours is not a cheap and cheerful proposition.
Ours is a value added proposition where what we bring to your business is an educated professional workforce in the private sector with a London work ethic in a Mediterranean environment.
Gibraltar is where you business can flourish and grow.
A rock of ages that has transformed itself into a modern, ambitious Digital Fortress for your business.
A place where the rule of law is guaranteed by an unimpeachable judiciary and final appeal to the UK Supreme Court sitting as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
So when you THINK BUSINESS, THINK GIBRALTAR.
A bastion of security in an uncertain world.
A sure partner in a time of flux.
A valuable asset to add or keep in your portfolio.
Welcome to Gibraltar Day in London.