By Maria Jesus Corrales
The challenge of Brexit can be turned into an opportunity for Gibraltar and the Campo if people’s well-being is made the top priority.
That was the key conclusion reached by a cross-party group of politicians from the Spanish parliament at the end of a two-day visit to the Campo.
The delegation from the Mixed Group on Brexit – which brings together both MPs from the Congress and senators from the Spanish Senate – met with Campo mayors and campaigning groups, and paid a visit to the border as part of their fact-finding mission.
“We wanted to listen, get a deeper understanding of the issues and do whatever we can to help ensure that the best possible consequences from a Brexit that no one wants,” said the socialist MP Soraya Rodriguez, the group’s chairman.
“We want to help turn what we have seen from the outset as a threat, into an opportunity.”
“If we put people first in this negotiation, we can achieve that.”
Ms Rodriguez was speaking after meeting members of the Cross-Frontier Group in La Linea yesterday morning.
The group, which brings together unions and businessmen from both sides of the border, has been at the forefront of a grassroots campaign highlighting the importance of frontier fluidity to communities in this area.
Yesterday it welcomed the attention on the region and said it had provided an opportunity to highlight key issues to politicians in Madrid.
“We highlighted the importance of not using Brexit as political weapon to push the sovereignty agenda,” said Lorenzo Perez, the chairman of Apymell, the La Linea small business association, who has been instrumental in the group’s work.
“We also underscored the importance of having a normal border flow, not just for cross-border workers but to avoid any negative impact on the business fabric in this area.”
“We stressed that Gibraltar should not be excluded from any withdrawal agreement or transition period,” he added.
“Spain must never seek to apply clause 24 because it would be paradoxical if the territory with the highest vote for Remain was the first one to leave.”
Lionel Chipolina, who currently holds the rotating chair of the Cross-Frontier Group, welcomed the interest shown by the Spanish MPs to hear at first hand the concerns of people living and working in this area.
He said the meeting with the Spanish MPs had been very fruitful.
The Cross-Frontier Group, he said, had long advocated the development of closer economic, social and cultural cross-border cooperation.
“What we have asked them is to make recommendations that facilitate that cooperation,” Mr Chipolina said.
“The understanding of the issues that they are taking with them is important, but what impact this will have back in the parliament is difficult to assess,” he said.
“I would say the tone was positive and it was apparent that they are very conscious of the responsibility they have toward citizens in this area.”