Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has called on MEPs to work towards a “sensible Brexit”, guaranteeing the Rock’s border crossing with Spain and single market access for its services industry. EURACTIV Spain reports.
Under European law, the British government’s Brexit plan would drag Gibraltar out of the European Union and the single market, along with the rest of the UK.
“Gibraltar is prepared to consider any reasonable solution to safeguard the flow of border traffic. For example, with a special relationship with the Schengen area or the establishment of a common travel or migration area between Gibraltar and the EU, subject to customs controls like those in place today,” he said, defending the system that has been in place since 1972.
The chief minister said that safeguarding the border crossing is vital to the interests of Spain.
“With only 32,000 inhabitants, Gibraltar represents 25% of GDP for the neighbouring Spanish municipalities, which have a total population of 300,000 people (…). Gibraltar’s prosperity is that of our neighbour, and vice versa,” he said.
Gibraltar and Scotland seek EU allies
Gibraltar and Scotland are looking for allies in the European Parliament to protect them against the most harmful effects of Brexit. At a Parliament hearing on Monday (30 January), the representatives from the two overwhelmingly Europhile UK territories demanded a flexible post-Brexit agreement.
Picardo and Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop explained to MEPs of the constitutional affairs committee how the future relations between London and Brussels would affect their territories, which voted massively to remain in the EU.
Hyslop called for “flexibility” regarding the single market and freedom of movement for Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU just months after deciding not to leave the UK.
Spain pleads for co-sovereignty
Esteban Gonzalez Pons, a centre-right Spanish MEP (EPP group) countered these calls for special treatment, saying “Brexit means Brexit.”
Pons challenged Picardo to decide “whether to return to Europe in Spanish hands or leave the Union as part of the UK”.
“In this divorce, the UK is leaving home and Spain is staying with its friends. The [Spanish] government has made a generous offer of co-sovereignty,” the MEP said.
Spain’s leading Socialist MEP, Ramón Jáuregui (S&D), also encouraged Picardo to opt for a “constructive” path, adding that “the EU has protected Gibraltar from a hostile neighbour”.
“This is not the way to build a path together, nor is it politically smart,” said Jáuregui, who believes this crisis “may provide an opportunity” to resolve the questions of sovereignty for Gibraltar.
The Socialist asked if the Rock’s leader would be willing to sit down with the Andalusian, Spanish and British authorities to discuss its future status and how EU law might be applied there.
After the committee hearing, Picardo told reporters there was “absolutely no chance” of Gibraltar accepting Spain’s offer of co-sovereignty.
“Believe me when I say that Gibraltar will never be Spanish and will always remain British. As British as London,” the chief minister added.