Gibraltar’s relationship with the neighbouring Campo de Gibraltar is one of “shared prosperity” that should be further enhanced against the backdrop of Brexit, the Gibraltar Government said yesterday.
No.6 Convent Place was responding to an interview at the weekend in which Spain’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, suggested the Rock was a ‘parasite’ on the Campo economy.
Mr Borrell’s comments were a small part of a much wider interview with El Pais on Spanish foreign policy issues ranging from migration to the EU’s relations with the US.
Asked about Gibraltar and Brexit, Mr Borrell said “it’s too soon to tell” whether Madrid will seek to block Gibraltar’s inclusion in any Brexit transition arrangements between the UK and the EU.
“For us the key thing is the impact on the economic development of the Campo de Gibraltar,” he reportedly said, underlining areas of interest to Spain including the airport, smuggling, taxation and fishing.
“The issues of sovereignty were important for some other ex-Foreign Minister, but this is the moment to end the underdevelopment of the Campo de Gibraltar, and prevent it becoming fertile ground for drug trafficking next to a territory that has the third-highest GDP per capita in the world.”
“That cannot be. Someone is parasitising someone.”
Mr Borrell’s choice of words to describe Gibraltar’s relationship with the Campo drew a swift response from the Gibraltar Government.
In a statement, No.6 Convent Place said Mr Borrell’s remarks “…can be read as insinuating that the Gibraltar economy is somehow parasitic of the Campo de Gibraltar.”
“The facts show that this is not the case,” No.6 said.
Drawing in part from an economic study commissioned by the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce several years ago, the government highlighted factors including:
– There are over 13,000 citizens who live in Spain and work in Gibraltar, the majority of them Spanish nationals.
– Gibraltar businesses purchase nearly £400m annually from Spanish companies.
– Residents of Gibraltar spend over £70m a year in goods and services in Spain.
– Residents of Gibraltar with a second home in Spain spend over £62m there, of which £46m is spent in the Campo de Gibraltar.
– Gibraltar accounts for 25% of the GDP of the neighbouring region of Spain.
– Gibraltar as a whole is the second largest employer for the neighbouring region of Andalucia.
“This shows the importance of the economic relationship between Gibraltar and the Spanish hinterland and the very high degree of shared prosperity that already exists,” No.6 added.
“It is important both for Gibraltar and for Spain itself that this shared prosperity is enhanced further as we prepare to leave the European Union and that the necessary steps are taken for this to happen.”
“In light of the facts, what is clear is that Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar enjoy a relationship at a human and commercial level which is best understood and described as symbiotic and which can be further improved to the mutual benefit of the people who live on both sides of the frontier.”
That position was also highlighted last Friday by Simon Manley, the UK’s ambassador to Spain, who told Spanish reporters that the UK Government was in daily contact with the Gibraltar Government to ensure “Brexit turns out well for the Gibraltarians”.
He signalled too London’s continued commitment to working with the governments of Gibraltar and Spain to avoid any negative impact on citizens and turn it instead into an opportunity to generate prosperity for the Rock and the Campo.
Mr Manley highlighted the importance of “fluidity at the border” and said the aim was to find “how we can make the best of the process of withdrawal to promote the prosperity and security of all the area in the interest of all citizens, be they Spanish, Gibraltarians or other Europeans who live in Spain and work in Gibraltar.”
“The important thing is that we are all working for the interests of all the citizens in area of Gibraltar.”
“We don’t want there to be any problems for the Spanish or other Europeans who want to work in Gibraltar, or for the Gibraltarians who want to enjoy the Campo de Gibraltar and go shopping and dining there.”
But Mr Manley also admitted that the challenge of securing Gibraltar’s future outside the EU frequently “gives me sleepless nights”.