The British Government was this week urged to “formally” confirm its verbal commitment to maintaining Gibraltar’s post-Brexit access to the UK market.
While UK ministers have promised that Gibraltar will continue to have a gateway to the UK after Brexit, this should be formalised in order to provide confidence to businesses and investors in an uncertain climate, guests at a business event were told.
“Our gateway to UK was assumed by many,” said Desiree McHard, the president of the Gibraltar Society of Accountants, at the organisation’s annual dinner.
“However for many industries our automatic access to Britain is only as a result of EU free movement of trade.”
“We have been verbally guaranteed that our access to UK will continue but it is imperative that we have this access formally confirmed.”
“This in itself would give businesses at least one element of certainty and a great advantage.”
“The UK will also need to negotiate trade agreements with the rest of the world [and] we need to ensure that these also apply to Gibraltar.”
In a speech to the packed event at the Sunborn Hotel on Wednesday night, Mrs McHard said that while Gibraltar may have little control on the route taken by the UK as it embarks on Brexit, it could nonetheless ensure its voice was heard.
She said the UK’s political parties were well aware of Gibraltar’s concerns and aspirations thanks to months of relentless lobbying by the government and other stakeholders.
And despite the uncertainty, she struck a positive note on the Rock’s prospects ahead.
“Despite the short-term concerns over Brexit, international businesses perceive Gibraltar’s economy and finance centre to be even stronger and more influential in the long term,” she said.
“We have the advantage of a good jurisdictional reputation and noted for our fast responsiveness and full transparency.”
“All of these stand us in good stead to prepare for the expedition ahead.”
The dinner also heard from Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who reflected on the work carried out over the past year with the UK Government, which he said continued to “progress positively”
“We expect that the results will be to deliver continued UK market access which is so important to our business model,” he said.
“And that will extend not just to our companies and services, but also to our people.”
Mr Picardo said it was now important to “focus exclusively, to the exclusion of all else” on the many challenges and opportunities that Brexit will bring for Gibraltar.
He said the private sector would play a crucial role in this, supporting the government’s work with its expertise and knowledge in areas such as gaming, insurance, funds and new sectors such as cryptocurrencies fintech.
The Chief Minister underlined continued business confidence in Gibraltar, highlighting that 26 new financial services licences had been issued since the result of the Brexit referendum was announced.
Mr Picardo also offered a hint as to next week’s budget.
“What I will report to Parliament in the second reading of the Appropriation Bill this year will disappoint our neighbours and our competitors,” he said.
“It may even disappoint some in the Parliament.”
“But it will please everyone in Gibraltar who believes in our future as a thriving business hub.”
“It will please everyone in our community who wants to see a strong Gibraltar able to prosper even in challenging circumstances.”
“And it will please every Gibraltarian family whose future depends on our continued prudent investment in the growth of this great but small nation of ours.”
The dinner also heard from guest speaker Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who is described by The Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer”.
Sir Ranulph, a former SAS soldier, recounted tales from his adventurous life spanning 50 years.
Main pic from left to right: Ian Collinson, deputy president of the Gibraltar Society of Accountants; Chief Minister Fabian Picardo; Desiree McHard, president of the Gibraltar Society of Accountants; and Sir Ranulph Fiennes