The Gibraltar Government risks ignoring domestic issues as it focuses its attention and efforts on Brexit, the Chamber of Commerce claimed yesterday in its in-house magazine.
In the foreword of the latest edition of the B2B, the Chamber acknowledged the importance of Brexit and the work that was being done by the government in this context.
“Brexit is obviously a priority for all our futures and we support the efforts government has made to ensure that Gibraltar’s voice is heard,” the Chamber said, adding that the package of measures recently announced between the UK and Gibraltar over future access to UK was “highly commendable in so far as they go”.
But the Chamber said the Government should not ignore matters which affect people and businesses on the Rock today.
It claimed that a growing list of issues required government attention but were being held up as a result of Brexit.
“And it is only the government which has the power to address them,” the Chamber said.
“Correspondence is written, chased up, officials and ministers are met with and matters are discussed. But resolving the matters never seems to make much progress.”
“The default response on why the government has done this or hasn’t done that seems too often to be: ‘We have been so preoccupied with Brexit discussions…’ or ‘We’ll have to wait until after Brexit.’”
“At times it seems that every decision is being held up until Brexit has been decided, whenever that might be.”
The Chamber added that whilst Brexit was important, the government must also address matters closer to home.
“With scant little pressure from the opposition to hold the government to any sort of account, the government has been lulled into a position which has become too comfortable for its own good,” it said.
In response, a Gibraltar Government spokesman said the Chamber had acknowledged the importance of “getting Brexit right” and insisted that the government was also dealing with many matters that were not related to leaving the EU.
“But the hours given the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister to Brexit matters are essential to making the right decisions for the future,” the spokesman added.
“That means some less important things are, perforce, going to be relegated or will suffer delays.”
“The people to thank or blame are those who argued for Brexit and those who voted for Brexit, not the people dedicating every available moment of their working lives to get it right for all of our community.”
For its part the GSD agreed with the Chamber that the Gibraltar Government should not lose sight of domestic issues in the process of dealing with issues arising from Brexit.
But it rejected the Chamber’s suggestion that the opposition was not pressing the government enough on important issues.
Party Leader Keith Azopardi explained that for “well-ventilated reasons”, the GSD was in transition last year and had undergone a period of change since December.
“I have accepted that the party was in need of rebuilding and changing the way it did things to improve effectiveness,” he said.
“MPs have continued to do their work holding the government to account in a wide variety of areas throughout this period,” he said.
Mr Azopardi said the GSD would seek to be more proactive in a number of policy areas including on important matters related to business.