In my opinion by Vijay Daryanani
There is no doubt that Gibraltar stands at a crossroads this month with the upcoming EU referendum. We have a big decision to make, one that will affect the future of our children and grandchildren in years to come.
As a businessman and Main Street trader these are worrying times. The potential instability and volatility triggered by a Brexit is a big concern for us all. Noises emanating from our neighbours across the frontier only add fuel to the fire.
The words of Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during his recent visit to Gibraltar could not have helped. For him to say that Britain’s ability to protect our interests would be “seriously impaired” keeps us in a state of uncomfortable suspense.
Being part of the EU has only been beneficial to Gibraltar. Our Government has rightfully taken advantage of its membership. The lobbying campaigns which culminated in the opening of our office in Brussels have been nothing but a masterstroke. We have seen how at the height of Margallo’s psychosis, the EU has intervened to prevent Spain from introducing an illegal toll to enter Gibraltar. At the same time they have, through their visits here, forced them to lower the pressure at the frontier. This is something we would not have enjoyed if we were not part of the EU.
The EU was again on our side in July 2014 when they dismissed Spain’s claim that we must dismantle the artificial reef in BGTW. This put Spain in their place once and for all on this matter.
EU funding has played an important role in Gibraltar for public and private sector projects alike. A figure of £60 million was recently released by the Government as the amount that has filtered into our economy over the last sixteen years. Small business start ups have always complained of lack of finance, as banks have shied away from helping them out. This offers our young entrepreneurs the opportunity to start following their dreams.
With the possibility of the PP forming Government in Spain a few days after the referendum, who knows what the future holds vis a vis the frontier. We could probably lose most of our flight connections to UK airports and be left with one daily flight to London like in the 70’s. Our finance centre as a whole would suffer; ask our lawyers and our accountants what is on their minds at the moment. There would be no passporting .There could be job losses and businesses closing down. Property developers could pull out and new ones would not come in, therefore curtailing huge economic activity that property development derives. We would not have access to the European single market which allows free movement of goods and services. This would undoubtedly hinder our attempts to attract inward investment, all this resulting in a seriously dour scenario.
Politically it could be a disaster. Spain has made it very clear that they will use the situation to its advantage by resurrecting the joint sovereignty deal, something that we will NEVER EVER accept, Brexit or no Brexit.
We need to send an unequivocal message to the UK and the whole of Europe that Gibraltar wants to massively remain in the EU. Polls in the UK are showing a close contest, our vote could make a difference. Look what happened in the last European Parliament elections, when Sir Graham Watson lost his seat. A higher Gibraltar turnout would have made a difference.
We do not need or aspire to have a “connection” with the EU as Mr Margallo suggests. We already are full members and this has its privileges. If we were to leave we would have to renegotiate what we already have, at the same time as being at Spain’s mercy. Let’s not have any regrets!!