Liam Fox, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, visited Gibraltar yesterday for lightning visit to discuss Brexit and future trade with the Gibraltar Government and local business leaders.
Dr Fox flew into Gibraltar on a commercial flight in the morning and was whisked to The Convent, where had a lunch meeting with the Governor, Lieutenant General Ed Davis, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia and Attorney general Michael Llamas.
He later met with officials from the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce and also with Sir Joe Bossano, the Minister for Economic Development.
The programme for the visit was organised and prepared by the UK Government.
In a highly unusual move for a visiting UK minister, Dr Fox did not meet journalists and made no public statement other than to tweet a photo of himself with Mr Picardo and Dr Garcia.
“It’s important, as we leave the EU, that we discuss our future trading relationships around the world with our colleagues on The Rock,” Dr Fox wrote in the tweet.
In a statement, the Gibraltar Government offered a little more insight into the discussion and stressed the importance of the minister’s presence on the Rock.
The visit centred around preparations for the UK and Gibraltar’s departure from the European Union and the trading opportunities that will follow, No.6 Convent Place said.
“Liam Fox is a great friend and supporter of Gibraltar,” Mr Picardo said.
“He knows and understands our issues very well back from the time when he served as Defence Secretary. We have kept in touch over many years.”
“His visit to Gibraltar is another example of the enduring bonds between us and the United Kingdom as we prepare to leave the European Union.”
“It reflects the strong connections that we have with the Conservative party and indeed across the political spectrum in Westminster.”
“Gibraltar can be truly proud that thanks to the intense lobbying efforts of its Government, our position is understood across all the political parties and across the Brexit divide with both Remainers and Brexiteers among our staunchest supporters.”
Christian Hernandez, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, said he and other Chamber officials had enjoyed a productive and constructive exchange of views with the minister.
But he said the Chamber had impressed on Dr Fox the frustration felt by many businesses in Gibraltar at the upheaval in UK politics and the lack of clarity as to the final outcome of the Brexit process.
“We set out the numerous and significant challenges that businesses in Gibraltar are facing as a result of a Brexit that none of us voted for,” Mr Hernandez told the Chronicle.
“We explained that the uncertainty about the final outcome of Brexit means it is very hard to do any contingency planning.”
“It is a very frustrating situation. What, exactly, are we planning for?”