The Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia has told the European Policy Centre in Brussels that border fluidity for all, for residents, tourists and workers, equals greater prosperity for all.
Dr Garcia arrived in Brussels late on Sunday night for two days of meetings and engagements. He was speaking to a high-profile audience of diplomats, journalists, representatives of the institutions of the European Union and others in a well-attended briefing for which over 150 delegates had registered.
The European Policy Centre was founded in 1997 and is the most important think-tank in Brussels. It describes its role as engaging partners, stakeholders and citizens in EU policy making and in the debate about the future of Europe.
The subject of the briefing was “Brexit’s other land border: Gibraltar and the future of the UK-EU relationship”.
Dr Garcia said that that EU attempts to bully Gibraltar have done nothing to build confidence, trust or goodwill going forward. He said that the people of Gibraltar often felt “hard done by” and called for the politics of “conflict and confrontation” to give way to “dialogue and cooperation”.
He set out in chronological detail, every occasion where the EU had let down Gibraltar during the negotiations to leave the European Union and since. He pointed to the negotiating guidelines of 2017 which gave Spain a purported second veto, to the exclusion of Gibraltar from the EU’s no deal contingency planning, to the insertion of the word “colony” in the visa regulation and to the EU side’s exclusion of Gibraltar from the negotiations on the future. When it comes to Gibraltar, he said, “anything goes” and added that this “represented no more than the bullying of a tiny territory by a huge supranational organisation”.
The Deputy Chief Minister outlined the historical position of Gibraltar since 1 January 1973 when we joined the European Economic Community, as it was then, as a European territory for whose external relations a Member State is responsible. He gave special emphasis to Gibraltar’s terms of membership and to the border with Spain, making the point that at the time of our accession the frontier was closed.
“The people of Gibraltar faced up to the Spanish dictator and endured nearly sixteen years locked up in a few square kilometres”, he explained. “This cannot be allowed to happen ever again.”
He told the audience that life for Gibraltar in Europe was uneventful until Spain joined in 1986 and started to use this membership to advance her claim.
The re-opening of the border, he said, set the foundations for the development of a close economic inter-relationship between the two sides. This had thrived while Gibraltar was in the European Union and it should not be placed in jeopardy now we have left at the end of the transition.
He explained the positive economic impact that Gibraltar represented for the neighbouring region of Spain. This included residents of Gibraltar spending money in Spain, over 14,000 frontier workers and over 1.5 billion euros in the value of annual exports from Spain to Gibraltar.
“The manner in which persons and goods cross the border after 31 December 2020 is vital to increasing the level of shared prosperity that already exists,” explained Dr Garcia, adding that there were solutions in existence already which would allow for continued frontier fluidity. He floated the idea of a common travel area between Gibraltar and the European Union as a possible way forward.
The message, stressed the Deputy Chief Minister, was that border fluidity for all, for residents, tourists and workers, equals greater prosperity for all.