Closure of the dockyard
The planned closure of the dockyard was one of the biggest issues of the year and the years to come. So much so, that Mr Bossano refers to 1982 as “a watershed for Gibraltar in its economic history”. The planned closure must be considered within the context of the Falklands War and the need of the British Government to increase defence spending back home. As a trade unionist, Mr Bossano saw the transfer of the dockyard to private hands as an economic disaster for Gibraltar and an undoing of many policies, including that of wage parity with the UK, which the Trade Union movement worked so hard to achieve in the previous decade.
Mr Bossano feared the economic consequences of the closure, but realised that more serious political consequences could arise from it. The UK’s withdrawal of naval ships from the Falklands created an air of indifference towards the territory, prompting Argentinians to invade. Mr Bossano drew comparisons between Gibraltar and the situation that was unfolding in the Falklands and raised his concern to the Government over the possibility of any British Government policy being created which would force Gibraltar to look to Spain and essentially jeopardise our sovereignty. Despite being an activist for Gibraltar’s greater economic independence, Mr Bossano was clearly against achieving it in this way.
The termination of development aid is an equally critical problem. According to the Gibraltar Government, the Sustain and Support policy of the United Kingdom should remain in place as long as the frontier restrictions continued, but this was no longer the case. Whilst Gibraltar citizens may have been classed as dependent they would no longer be afforded the rights that come with that. Mr Bossano details what he believes is the reasoning behind this policy:
“It seems to me that there are those, presumably within the Foreign Office, who claim to believe that the frontier opening will replace the need for assistance from the United Kingdom and produce sufficient income to offset the loss of income from other sources.”
Mr Bossano detailed the three linked factors which he viewed as central in shaping the British Governments policy towards Gibraltar. These were:
- The intended closure of the dockyard;
- The effective de facto termination of development aid; and
- The implementation of the Lisbon Agreement and the restoration of communications with Spain.