Gibraltar officials today head for ‘detailed’ discussions in London

Officials from the government of Gibraltar – seen as the British outpost most likely to be affected by the UK’s departure from the EU – were on their way to London today for what were described as “detailed discussions with the UK government on a number of areas, including the process of leaving the EU”.

The trip to London comes the day after UK prime minister Theresa May delivered her long-awaited outline of her planned approach to guiding the UK out of the EU, which included an intention to leave the single market but to seek a “bold and ambitious free-trade agreement” with the EU in its place and a hope of maintaining a continued partial membership of the EU’s customs union.

May’s speech caused the pound to rise relative to the US dollar for the first time in days on Tuesday, to just below $1.24, as experts, journalists and public policy officials around the world struggled to determine, from her remarks, what they would ultimately mean for businesses and the UK, EU and global economies.

Among those flying to London today were Gibraltar chief minister Fabian Picardo; deputy chief minister Dr Joseph Garcia; attorney general Michael Llamas; and Gibraltar’s UK representative, journalist Dominique Searle.

In a statement posted on the government’s website last night, Picardo said: “We are seeing that there are many positive pathways and routes through the areas of concern which can arise from Brexit, and it is clear that Gibraltar is likely to continue to do well in the future, because we have understood those potential
pitfalls and prepared for them.

“The work we have done and are doing is standing us in good stead as we enter the final part of the exercise of preparing for the triggering of Article 50.”

According to the statement, Picardo is scheduled to make a number of presentations while in London with respect to Gibraltar “which will help to keep the issues which are relevant to Gibraltar in the public eye”.

As reported here yesterday, a Gibraltar government report that was presented to a UK House of Lords committee last week warned that nearly half of all “employee jobs” in Gibraltar could be put at risk by a “hard border”, if such were the result of the UK’s departure from the EU.

The report is described as being supplementary written evidence to a House of Lords committee hearing held last month, at which Gibraltar’s chief minister, deputy chief minister and attorney general all testified.

Even now, according to the report, a “hard border” exists between Gibraltar and Spain, as a function of the fact that Gibraltar is not even now a part of the Common Customs Union, with respect to the movement of goods across its border with Spain, nor the Schengen agreement, with respect to the movement of people.

Given that, for example, it’s “not uncommon for Spain to operate border queues of two hours or more for vehicles”, the people of Gibraltar have, over the years, “come to see the EU as providing a degree of protection against the excesses of a hostile neighbour through the application of EU law”, the report notes.

Gibraltar’s citizens, who were allowed to vote in the EU membership referendum last June, voted by 96% to 4% in favour of remaining within the EU.

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