This week, we have gained a clearer idea of what exiting the EU means, but what does the future hold for Gibraltar post-Brexit?
It is understandable why the rock voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the super-bloc. If you were surprised the peninsula voted for the In camp, you are probably one of the very few people surprised when Labour wins in Manchester and their other heartlands.
Of the island’s 30,000 residents, 19,322 of them voted to stay part of the EU. The British colony borders Spain and as long as we agree to the free movement of workers and EU membership, the former presents no threat to the island. But since June 23rd, that has dramatically changed and Gibraltar’s future has become uncertain.
The rock’s leaders have made clear to our Government that they benefit from the single market. They fear that the Spanish will take advantage of the peninsula post-Brexit by choke-holding their economy.
There have been many arguments in favour of the EEA option. Part of the reason for that is to ease Gibraltar’s anxieties. This would make sense from their perspective. Joining this trading bloc would mean that Britain would be able to retain access to the single market post-Brexit. This would mean Spain would be able to retain its access to the rock’s markets and there would be no need for the former to close its economy to the peninsula and threaten the stability of their markets.
Yet the result on June 23rd does not affect Gibraltar entirely. It is quite clear the Lib Dems would love nothing more than to allow the British colony a seat in the House of Commons as part of a cynical bid to help derail the Brexit negotiations. Sir Graham Watson has written an article pandering to the island, claiming they will always have the Lib Dems’ backing. Pity the rest of our nation doesn’t when we voted for a result they fail to respect.
If the Government pursues a free trade deal with the EU that allows us to trade with the single market without having to pay into the EU budget, there is no reason why many on the rock should fear that leaving the super-bloc will harm their economy. Indeed, Gibraltar’s economy would benefit from being opened up to markets across the world, not just Europe’s.
Many on the peninsula should feel reassured that Johnson will respect the result of the referendum they had in 2002 to reject the notion of shared-sovereignty with Spain. This has dashed the hopes of the latter, who have made it clear that one day they hope that there will be a Spanish flag on the rock.
Restricting the free movement of workers may actually benefit, as opposed to hinder, the peninsula’s economy. Like Lichtenstein, they must struggle with numbers of new migrants entering the country looking for work. If Gibraltar, like us, can attract workers based on quality, not quantity, that would only pave the way for a brighter future for them.
If Britain can negotiate a free trade deal with the EU that ensures we can trade with the single market, there is no reason why Gibraltar’s future post-Brexit looks bad. This will ensure Spain still depends upon the rock for trade, and vice versa, whilst providing the island with opportunities to trade with the rest of the world. There is no reason why one of our last remaining colonies cannot do well outside the super-bloc just because of geography.