Gibraltar will be asked to vote in an EU election on May 23 if this becomes necessary while the UK Parliament decides the future of Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said the UK Government hopes to reach agreement on a Brexit deal in time to avoid having to participate in elections to the European Parliament.
Unless it reaches agreement, the UK must hold the election as a key condition of the EU’s decision to grant an extension to the Brexit deadline.
The EU has agreed to delay Brexit by up to six months to October 31 while Mrs May seeks an agreement with Labour that she hopes will help get her three-times rejected exit deal approved by parliament.
But with Westminster divided on all Brexit options except ruling out ‘no deal’, it is increasingly likely that the UK and Gibraltar will have to vote to elect MEPs next May.
Yesterday, that prospect was welcomed by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo during a statement summing up the latest development, including legislation passed by the UK Parliament to prevent a hard Brexit.
“The holding of those elections is a condition of the long extension, but it is not one we would find objectionable,” Mr Picardo said.
“In this latter respect, the UK has already legislated to hold the EU Elections, as have we in Gibraltar.”
“Not since our first opportunity to vote in these European Elections will our votes have been so important.”
Mr Picardo said the extension to the deadline and the removal of ‘no deal’ as a viable option meant the pressure to revoke Article 50 had eased.
He said the Gibraltar Government would continue to support Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement as a means of leaving the EU in managed, orderly way.
But he insisted too that his government believed the best option for both the UK and Gibraltar was to remain in the EU.
In that respect, he supported calls for a “confirmatory referendum”, adding that the long extension provided a window of opportunity that should not be wasted.
And he acknowledged too that even though the UK had legislated to avoid a hard Brexit, this required a parallel move in the EU and that, as things stood, ‘no deal’ could still happen “by accident”.
He said the Gibraltar Government continued to prepare for that eventuality, even while hoping that the work would be in vain.
“We plan for everything, ignore nothing and prepare for everything and hope that we shall be able to look back and consider all of that wasted time if we ultimately remain in the EU,” he said.
“Although even if we were to remain in the EU, we would now do so in much better shape in some respects.”
Mr Picardo said that in course of preparing for a hard Brexit, his government had “looked over the cliff edge” to understand what it would man for this community.
“We would easily survive such a Brexit, but it would be unpleasant,” he said.
“It would undoubtedly bring difficulties to some aspects of people’s lives, despite our greatest efforts.”
“And it is ultimately unnecessary.”
“For those reasons, I am very happy that it is an outcome that is at least for now avoided and which we should seek to continue to avoid going forward.”