Recent statements by British ministers “clarify and put beyond doubt” the UK Government’s commitment to guarantee Gibraltar’s access to the UK services market after Brexit, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told the Gibraltar Parliament yesterday.
In a statement outlining the bilateral agreement reached by the UK and Gibraltar last week, Mr Picardo played down concerns that access was time limited.
He said the agreement guaranteed Gibraltar’s access to the UK through to 2020, irrespective of any attempt to exclude Gibraltar from transitional arrangements agreed by the UK and the EU.
Thanks to this “immediate cushion”, Gibraltar’s “…potential illegal and nonsensical exclusion from the transitional period would have no effect as between Gibraltar and the UK,” the Chief Minister said.
Beyond 2020, the UK and Gibraltar were already working on a new framework to replace the current single market mechanisms that will end in 2020 once the transitional period expires, Parliament was told.
“The UK market in financial services will remain open to Gibraltar even after 2020,” Mr Picardo said.
“No one should be in any legitimate doubt about that.”
“What we are seeking to do – and this goes to mechanism, not to principle – is to ensure that we create mutual confidence in and cooperation on regulatory and supervisory structures for the period beyond 2020.”
Mr Picardo said Gibraltar and the UK were currently embarked on a review to ensure that “regulatory outcomes” after 2020 were aligned and focused on consumer protection.
The UK’s so-called Gibraltar Order – which allows current market access under EU regulatory frameworks – will be “recast and redesigned” to modernise and adapt it into “a bespoke piece of UK legislation” that will create the gateway for access into the new bilateral arrangements.”
The Chief Minister said the agreement last week was also of particular importance to the gaming industry.
“This is better than excellent progress at this stage in the game, when operators in other jurisdictions do not have any certainty or clarity of what access they may have into the UK market in services,” Mr Picardo said.
“Gibraltar is the only jurisdiction to have the benefit of a firm UK commitment on continued market access after we leave the European Union.”
“This is an important advantage for Gibraltar as no other EU jurisdiction at all can boast such a clear and unequivocal statement of continued market access post Brexit.”
The Chief Minister also highlighted the fact that the UK had agreed to continue charging Gibraltarian students at home, rather than international rates.
Had that concession not been achieved, it would have resulted in an increase of around £4.5m to the annual scholarship bill, based on current undergraduate numbers.
Elliott Phillips, the Leader of the Opposition, responded to the Chief Minister and said the GSD broadly welcomed the content of the agreement reached with the UK.
But he said his party “remains cautious” as to the situation beyond 2020 and urged “a stronger commitment” from the UK.
He also acknowledged the need to increase cooperation with Spain against the backdrop of Brexit.
Finally Mr Phillips said that while Brexit remained a key issue, the government should not ignore domestic matters that were of crucial importance to the community.