The Government notes that the referendum on the United Kingdom and Gibraltar’s continued membership of the European Union took place five years ago.
Five years on, Gibraltar continues to be an engine of prosperity in the region, affected more by the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic than by the uncertainty initially created by the result of the BREXIT referendum.
Today marks the anniversary of the date that millions of people took to the polls in that referendum across the United Kingdom and Gibraltar.
All of Gibraltar’s political, social, trade union and employers’ representatives joined to campaign for the ‘remain’ option.
Although the result in Gibraltar was a resounding 96% in favour of remaining in the EU, the Government obviously fully respected the overall result declared in the whole of the UK and worked with the Government of the United Kingdom to deliver the result of the referendum in a manner that was safe for Gibraltar from the very many angles engaged.
The Government has worked tirelessly, over the following Parliamentary term and a half, on ensuring that the best interests of Gibraltar and its people were always protected and at the forefront of the agenda.
The huge logistical exercise conducted in order to work on a future relationship with the EU, has been spearheaded by the Government’s core Brexit team.
This team, consisting of the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, the Attorney General and the Financial Secretary, has worked together with many public servants to successfully avoid the very many and real risks that Gibraltar was facing after the BREXIT referendum, including the many ‘no deal Brexit’ cliff-edges that have come and gone since then.
The Government was clear then and clear now: it is in the interests of all sides to make sure that there is a viable and fruitful solution in place for both Gibraltar and the neighbouring area to guarantee frontier fluidity, continued investment and continued job creation.
It is reassuring to look back at the progress that has been made over the last five years and to appreciate that Gibraltar is now very close to solving the real issues a no deal Brexit could have caused.
The ‘in principle framework agreement’ done on New Year’s Even with the United Kingdom and Spain for a potential treaty between the UK and the EU is the vehicle that has the potential to deliver prosperity to the Rock and the neighbouring hinterland for years to come.
The Government continues its work, in partnership with Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom, to secure that treaty for the benefit of all interested parties.
The Chief Minister The Hon Fabian Picardo QC MP said:
“As soon as the result of the referendum was announced, the far right in Spain were optimistic that it was a result which would weaken Gibraltar and would give them a chance to drive a wedge between us and the United Kingdom. They were wrong. The result of the referendum and the COVID pandemic has made us closer than ever to the UK. Individuals such as Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, then Spanish Foreign Minister, were quick to proclaim in 2016 that Gibraltar would soon see a Spanish flag flying over the Rock. What they did not appreciate was how hard the Gibraltar team would work from the morning after that result, to secure long-lasting prosperity and security for Gibraltar and its inhabitants. The stresses and strains of the past five years have been many and they are not yet over, but we are in good shape as we look to start the negotiation of the potential UK treaty with the EU. It is therefore testament to this hard work that we are now very close to securing a treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union based on our New Year’s Eve Agreement with Spain. Although the start of the negotiation with the EU is delayed, I am confident that all parties remain optimistic that we can finalise a treaty which guarantees the fluidity at the frontier and the other elements necessary for Gibraltar and its neighbours in the region to share in a future of ‘shared prosperity’ that will not be a victim of the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU but an example that cooperation can endure despite it. For Gibraltar, that comes with a guarantee of continued, undiluted British Sovereignty over the Rock. For my part, I will also remember the day of the referendum and the announcement of the result with a tinge of sadness. I have never worked so hard since the announcement that day to give my all for Gibraltar, as have done all my colleagues in Government and in the core Brexit team. I thank everyone who has worked with us since then and I pledge not to rest until we finalise suitable arrangements for Gibraltar that successfully deliver the certainty and security that we need going forward. I especially thank Joseph, Michael and Albert for their hard work each day as we have slogged through. My job now is to ensure that, generations from now, when people look back on this anniversary, they can reflect that things did not turn out so badly for Gibraltar in the end as a result of the work and solutions delivered by my government team and that the relationship with Britain and Europe has blossomed despite the challenges. We are not there yet, but we can see light at the end of the BREXIT tunnel now. Hopefully, we will be fully out of the tunnel soon.”