Gibraltar’s hopes for freedom of movement between itself and Spain after the UK leaves the European Union have been undermined following a dismissive response in the European Parliament.
Gibraltar and Scotland both set out their positions on Brexit during submissions to an influential committee in the European Parliament yesterday, explaining their hopes to maintain certain EU freedoms. But Esteban González Pons, the spokesman for the Partido Popular in the European Parliament immediately responded warning that any acceptance of ‘a la carte’ solutions, will be “the beginning of the end of the European Union”.
In an exclusive video interview with International Investment last week, that was conducted just before he was due to speak to the MPs in UK’s House of Commons, Gibraltar’s chief Minister Fabian Picardo outlined his desire for EU rules to allow more than 10,000 Spanish workers to make the short journey from their homes in Spain across the border to jobs in Gibraltar.
‘Any reasonable solution’
In his address to the European Parliament Select Committee he told MEPs, that Gibraltar would consider “any reasonable solution” to safeguard border flow. Picardo also highlighted the importance of access to the single market in services, adding this represented 10% of Gibraltar’s financial business.
“Gibraltar has always had a different status in the EU to the UK and in so far as the remaining member states agree and Gibraltar wishes, we should be able to enjoy any opt in or make other realistically and geographically sensible arrangements,” he said.
‘Differentiated EU deal’
In his interview with International Investment, Picardo added that Gibraltar has a “differentiated deal” in terms of the UK succession into the EU in 1973. “We don’t have the application to us for the freedom of movement of goods because of Gibraltar’s status in the old days as a free port,” he said.
“I am very confident indeed that the United Kingdom understands the issues that we are putting to them and that we are not going to be let down and there isn’t a five minute to midnight opportunity for Spain to somehow throw a spanner in the works and try and keep Gibraltar out of any arrangements that the UK might do going forward.
“That would not be in anybody’s interest not least the 10,000 that live in Spain, many if not most Spaniards that come to Gibraltar every day to work and earn their living and take their wages back into this area of Southern Spain adjacent to Gibraltar that is the most battered with unemployment in the whole of Spain,” Picardo told International Investment.
Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government minister responsible for external affairs, also address the committee stating that Scotland also wanted a “differentiated solution” that would allow freedom of movement and access to the single market.
“Please do not turn your back on Scotland,” she said. “Now is the time to show solidarity with a nation that voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.”
However, both UK territories hopes were potentially cut short by a quick response from Pons, who was sitting just a few metres from both speakers.
“If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, all the components of the United Kingdom will leave the European Union,” he said.
No ‘a al carte’ solutions
“There is no possibility after Brexit of maintaining [access] to the single market or the free movement of people if it is not for the whole of the United Kingdom. You cannot be a part member of the European Union, or a member in the morning but not in the afternoon. You are either a member of the European Union, or you are not.
“If today we start to accept ‘a la carte’ solutions, it will be the beginning of the end of the European Union,” he warned.
The UK Government was today discussing the details of a white paper that, once debated and voted for by UK MPs will allow the formal process of the UK withdrawing from the EU. UK PM Theresa May has already insisted the UK’s Brexit position should also include the UK leaving the European single market.