In a firm message of support to the people of Gibraltar, the Leader of the UK Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson MP has declared “We stand with you”. She visited the Gibraltar stand and addressed a reception hosted by the Gibraltar Government.
The Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia thanked Jo Swinson for her support and praised her vision in moving the party to a policy of revoking Article 50 and remaining in the European Union in the event that they win a majority. This is the long preferred option of the Government of Gibraltar.
In his address to a packed gathering of Members of Parliament, including former leader Sir Vince Cable MP, Lords, MEPs and politicians, Dr Garcia added that it was unrealistic to leave a club and expect equal or better treatment than while a member. “The best deal is to remain,” he added.
The Deputy Chief Minister said that a sensible and orderly Brexit was in the best interests of Spain as well as Gibraltar. He pointed out that there were over 15,000 people who lived in Spain and worked in Gibraltar, of whom some 9,000 were Spanish nationals. Gibraltar purchased some 1.5 billion euros of goods from Spain and Gibraltarians spent tens of millions of pounds annually in leisure activities across the border. It was clearly in Spain’s interests not to cut off her nose to spite her face.
He reiterated the point that many of those who voted to leave probably had no idea of the negative consequences and inconveniences that such a choice would thrust upon their fellow citizens.
In that context he pointed out that Gibraltarians and UK citizens would need not one but two different international driving permits in order to reach Portugal through Spain. “We will lose advantages that have long been taken for granted. This is what it will mean to be outside the club,” he said.
The Gibraltar Government reception was extremely well attended, reflecting the high level of interest in Gibraltar. The Liberal Democrat event is the first in the UK party conference season.