by Daniel Feetham, leader of the GSD
This referendum is about preserving the British Gibraltarian way of life.
In Gibraltar we are truly blessed and not only because we live in a beautiful part of the world.
Our standard of living has continuously increased decade after decade. We have successfully repositioned ourselves from an MOD based economy in the 1980s to a thriving private sector economy today.
When I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, I shared one bedroom with three brothers and a sister. That was not uncommon then. Since those days, considerable financial investment by successive Governments has meant that our people have been given the opportunity to buy homes and invest in the future of their families. I am very proud of the fact that the GSD Government continued to provide affordable homes and also built a magnificent Government rental estate in Mid-Harbours and quality homes for our elderly. The GSLP-Liberal Government has also invested heavily in these areas.
Unemployment is low by international standards at a time when our neighbours, for example, suffer from 47.7% unemployment in young people under 25. Our education system allows us currently to fund students to postgraduate level at a time when students elsewhere are weighed down by the debt of funding their own university education. We invest record amounts in our health and caring services, which have increased significantly year on year, while in other countries these budgets are being cut and the most vulnerable are suffering.
Over the last four years I have repeatedly warned that we cannot assume that the good times would last forever and that it would be prudent to rein in spending and also stop increasing public debt, particularly but not exclusively, in the light of potential curves up ahead bearing in mind Gibraltar’s peculiarities. A potential BREXIT is one of those curves but there may be others. Whatever, the rights or wrong of that debate, if we really want to protect our way of life as best as possible, we must vote REMAIN at this referendum.
I enjoy walking around Gibraltar talking to people about this and other issues of concern to them. Only last week talking about the referendum to a few people, one of them said to me “I work in the civil service, BREXIT will not affect me”. I am afraid, BREXIT will affect everyone in Gibraltar. In my thumbnail sketch of why we lead a blessed life, we must remember too that the public service has increased significantly over the years; and while our forefathers fought for and achieved, parity, our public servants today enjoy parity ‘plus’. The reason for that is because our counterparts in the UK have felt the full force of a recession followed by austerity. That is precisely the risk we face in a BREXIT and the public service will not be immune.
Our economic model is one which has Gibraltar at the heart of the EU Single Market. It is what has allowed us, in large part, to enjoy that blessed way of life by using access to European Union wide markets. In a BREXIT situation, companies that depend on selling goods and services in the Europe Union may look for alternative jurisdictions. Inward investment would also suffer for much the same reason. That would lead to less jobs, less revenue for the Government in taxes, and in turn, a lesser ability on the part of Government to invest in those areas which we all accept form part of the Gibraltarian way of life. Over the weekend the Prime Minister, said the EU referendum was an “existential” issue for the United Kingdom. It is equally existential for our current economic model.
We cannot also forget the Spanish dimension. Only last week Sr Margallo repeated the mantra that a BREXIT would mean an opportunity to achieve joint-sovereignty. He also ominously said that in such a situation Spain would be entitled in law to close the frontier, even if there was no present intention to do so. It is inevitable that if the vote is for ‘Leave’ on Thursday, Spain will attempt to take advantage of the situation. This referendum is therefore also about giving people like Sr Margallo no hope, by voting massively to remain in the EU with the UK.
In these last few days, I am therefore calling on all GSD voters, and all Gibraltar voters generally, to turn out in massive numbers on Thursday 23 June to defend Gibraltar’s way of life. We have to do all in Gibraltar’s power to make sure our children enjoy that same way of life that we have enjoyed.
We can make a difference. The polls in the UK indicate that the result will be very close. In those circumstances a massive show of support for ‘REMAIN’ in Gibraltar by us all together, could make all the difference!”