The European Union today further extended the date of the United Kingdom’s EU departure to 31 January 2020. There is provision for an earlier exit in the event that the UK Parliament ratifies the Withdrawal Agreement sooner.
The position of the Government of Gibraltar remains unchanged. The best deal for Gibraltar would be to remain in the European Union together with the United Kingdom. This is in line with the views of 96% of the voting electorate in Gibraltar as expressed in the 2016 referendum.
However, the Government of Gibraltar will continue to prepare for every eventuality. This includes preparing to leave with an agreement or without one.
In the former case, the position of Gibraltar has been fully protected as part of the Withdrawal Treaty, through a Protocol, four MoUs and a Tax Treaty. This means that in the event that the UK Parliament ratify the deal between now and the end of January, the transitional period will automatically apply to Gibraltar at least until the end of 2020. There is provision for this to be extended to the end of 2021 or 2022.
In the event that the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified by the UK Parliament, then we will continue to work to mitigate the effects of a no deal Brexit in so far as we can. This will include the deployment of the different contingency plans that have been put in place over the last year.
Given the state of political flux in the United Kingdom, it is possible that there could be a general election which could be followed by a referendum or by the revocation of article 50 altogether.
The Government of Gibraltar will continue to take prudent and sensible steps to protect Gibraltar whatever the outcome, as indeed we have been doing since 2016.
The Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC MP, said: “We have been preparing to ensure that we ready for absolutely any Brexit eventuality. Just today we have finished testing alternative port facilities for post-Brexit contingencies. The work led by the Deputy Chief Minister, Hon Dr Joseph Garcia, in this respect is meticulous and is carefully being delivered in time for the deadline we were facing. We will now continue to prepare, as it is never a waste of time to ensure Gibraltar has the ability to guarantee resilience for our community. We will also continue to monitor developments in London and Brussels and will continue our engagement with key players. For now, it appears that the threat of a hard Brexit on Thursday is now receding – although we look forward to final confirmation of this as a matter of law. Indeed, it would appear that hard Brexit is now increasingly unlikely as the UK Parliament has voted for the second reading of the UK Withdrawal Agreement Bill. We will therefore properly calibrate the use of resources in this respect going forward. In this respect, everyone involved in planning for a hard Brexit in every European capital will, no doubt, breathe a sigh of relief. Now we must observe what happens in elections in Spain next month and potentially also in the United Kingdom before the end of the year.”