Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia has told the annual conference of the UK Liberal Democrats in Bournemouththat it is in the best interests of all sides to ensure that there is a free flowing border between Gibraltar and Spain post-Brexit. He made the comments in a discussion entitled “Brexit and Borders” as part of the conference.
Dr Garcia spoke as part of a panel discussing the potential impact of leaving the European Union on the land borders of Gibraltar and Northern Ireland. Also on the panel was David Ford MLA, former Northern Ireland Justice Minister and Alastair Carmichael MP.
The UK, he said in the discussion, was ultimately responsible for three land borders with the European Union.
“These are the borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic, Gibraltar and Spain, and between the sovereign bases and the Republic of Cyprus. Each of those borders present unique challenges aside from that broad similarity.”
Dr Garcia explained the background to the Gibraltar border making the point that it was already outside the EU Customs Union and that free movement of goods has never applied.
This, he added, was in sharp contrast with the position in Northern Ireland, where the existence of the common travel area meant that the debate is about the movement goods more than it is about people.
Dr Garcia further explained that in Gibraltar the essence of the discussion was about the movement of people.
“There were several categories of persons who crossed the border for a variety of reasons. This includes residents on either side of the border, the second category are frontier workers and the third one tourists.”
He informed the panel that there were 13,000 people who came into Gibraltar to work every day and nearly ten million tourists who came in to visit every year.
“Gibraltar is a microcosm of what Europe should be with thousands of people living on one side of an EU border and choosing to work freely in another. It is essential that this land access for residents, workers and tourists continued in the future.”
He said it would have no impact on the UK itself because, unlike in Northern Ireland, immigration controls exist between the U.K. and Gibraltar.
In answer to questions, he explained the challenges that exist in different parts of the British family of nations, in the Devolved Administrations, the other Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies.
The Deputy Chief Minister said that Gibraltar did not want Brexit and did not vote for it. This made it all the more important to ensure that a sensible, orderly and well-managed Brexit resolves any border challenges that present themselves.
Dr Garcia also had a number of one to one meetings whilst at the conference, at which he is accompanied by the Minister for Culture, Youth and Sport, Steven Linares.
There is a Gibraltar stand at the conference and the Gibraltar Government will host its traditional reception for MPs, Lords and politicians tonight.
“The party conferences provide a unique opportunity to speak to countless Members of parliament and politicians from across the political spectrum under one roof,” Dr Garcia said.
It was, he added, a continuation of the lobbying activities of the Government in order to make sure that the wishes of the people of Gibraltar are known and understood, particularly in the context of Brexit.
Meanwhile the Gibraltar Government will be represented at the party conferences of the main political parties in the United Kingdom over the coming weeks.
“This is all the more important this year in view of the continuing negotiations for the United Kingdom and Gibraltar to leave the European Union,” said a Government spokesman.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo will attend the Conservative Party conference which this year which takes place in Manchester from 1 to 4 October. He will also go to the Labour Party conference in Brighton from 24 to 27 of this month.
The Deputy Chief Minister will also represent the Government at the conference of the Scottish National Party which this year will be in Glasgow in October.