Gibraltar could be left “at the mercy of Spain” if Britain votes to leave the EU, deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia told Year 12 students from Bayside and Westside Schools yesterday.
In an address, Dr Garcia said there was a risk that a Brexit would leave Gibraltar politically exposed to an aggressive government in Madrid.
Dr Garcia made the comments following a presentation made by students who had attended a visit to the EU institutions in Brussels last year organised by the Gibraltar in Europe Group.
“The UK has published a document indicating that Spain could close the frontier if Gibraltar were not in the EU,” he said.
“We would be at the mercy of Spain.”
He reminded student that Spain only opened in the border in 1985 because it wanted to join the European Community and there could not be a closed border between two parts of the EC.
“Spain has consistently used the border as a means to harass Gibraltar,” he said.
Dr Garcia explained the difficulties that could arise at the border if Gibraltar were outside the EU and stressed the importance of the Single Market for businesses in Gibraltar.
He cited other positive gains for Gibraltar like EU Funding over many years, the EU format identity card which served as a travel document and the EU health card which allowed access to healthcare in other parts of Europe when travelling there.
The deputy Chief Minister explained that the position of the Government, and indeed of the Parliament of Gibraltar and of all the political parties in Gibraltar, is that the Rock’s future lies inside the European Union.
He recalled the positive impact of his first visit to Brussels with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo some twenty years ago, as young people who had just finished their studies, and he explained how this spurred on the government’s policy of encouraging other young people to go there as well.
Dr Garcia said that the next group of students, who are due to visit Brussels in September, will do so after the referendum on EU membership on June 23.
“This means that when the next group goes to Brussels we will either continue in the European Union under the terms negotiated by the Prime Minister or we will be negotiating our exit,” he said. “It is as stark as that.”