by Kayron Pozo
With only hours to go before we find out the result of the Gibraltar vote for the EU referendum and after reading Tarik El-Yabani’s opinion in today’s Chronicle advocating to leave the EU, I believe it is important to remember what the EU has done for Gibraltar, either directly or indirectly.
The biggest problem we face if Brexit becomes a reality is that of the insistent pressure we would receive from our neighbours, north of the Border.
The border between Gibraltar and Spain has always been a contentious issue between our communities, being used as tool by Spain in an ad-hoc manner to disrupt our daily lives. This has been witnessed by us as recently as last year.
Thanks to the Gibraltar Government’s pressure on the EU and the untiring insistence on the matter, the European Commission sent a team of inspectors to assess the situation. As a result a number of recommendations have been made, although the Spanish Government admittedly are dragging their feet in respect of the implementation of these recommendations, I would like to ask when was the last time we had a barrage of border queues we have known in the past. On occasion we may experience an hour or so of queues, but this is mostly due to the volume of traffic and not the overzealous nature of the Guardia Civil’s vehicle search.
Another issue at the border which has disappeared are the pedestrian queues, where people were expected to stand for hours on end to cross into Spain, with complete disregard of age or medical conditions. These have been eliminated thanks to the intervention of the EU Commission, without which I am sure no-one would have had the effective skills to put a stop to the situation.
Again using the frontier as an example, what would happen to the flow of goods and personnel if we were not in Europe?
Let us look at only one of the many possible scenarios. Spain in the past being an EU member state has imposed what we in Gibraltar consider to be excessive checks for vehicular passage as we do not pay VAT, our cigarette prices are cheaper and as they have expressed are “Duty Bound” to curtail the problem of smuggling at the border etc. If this has happened under the auspices of our membership within the EU, imagine their actions if we were not a member. What would stop them from imposing full vehicle checks for all vehicles driving out of Gibraltar, which would result in hours long border queues? What would happen to the access of the good that come into Gibraltar via the frontier? How long would a truck or lorry with items for our businesses have to wait at the commercial frontier before it allowed to enter Gibraltar and then repeat the whole process before it would be allowed to leave? This would be disastrous for our businesses, as they would be unable to ensure that they have enough stock to sell. Imagine the local supermarkets and food shops not being able to bring in the food as it has been delayed at the border. What company would want to deliver here under those circumstances? We would be in effect made to look for alternative transport routes, which ultimately would increase prices.
There is also the unlikely scenario of border closure. Although not as easily done due to international and EU law as it was when Franco closed the frontier, it is a possibility. How would Gibraltar sustain its economy under those circumstances, with no economic input from the UK Government or the MoD?
Other elements of leaving the EU that we have to consider is that of the insurance and finance sectors, what percentage of business come either from the EU or as a result of being in the EU. These two large markets employ a considerable amount of people plus generate a sizeable portion of our economy. The online betting companies, would this have an impact on them? With the betting companies being one of the largest employers in the private sector, how would this affect a) the economy and b) the job security of those working there?
These are only a small number of examples in ways that leaving the EU could affect us. These are questions that unfortunately the out campaign has no real answers to and the fact that a number of UK politicians have told us that we will be in a better position by leaving the EU does little to inspire confidence in our community, as history has taught us that unfortunately they cannot be trusted fully.
The only thing that we know for certain, is that if we stay in the EU, the worst case scenario is that we continue with the current status quo, who knows things could even get better. But there are too many uncertainties and not enough answers to make me vote out.
It is in my opinion ludicrous that any person living in Gibraltar would wish out of the EU at this stage. Particularly that we have built our own economic success thanks to the EU. Gibraltar has benefited from EU funding that has permitted us to create tings such as the Commonwealth park and so much more.
I urge you, that if you have not done so yet, please go and exercise your democratic right to vote and vote for security and stability for Gibraltar VOTE IN.