Gibraltars’s political leaders agreed yesterday that the outcome of the EU election demonstrated clear opposition to Brexit and firm support for remaining in the EU, despite the deep divisions evident in the UK.
They noted that while Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party topped the poll, most UK voters who participated in the vote backed pro-EU parties or those that clearly advocated a second referendum.
While the Brexit Party and UKIP secured around 35% of votes, parties opposed to Brexit and calling for a second referendum won 40% of the votes.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, the leader of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party, said the outcome underscored the deep divisions in Britain on Brexit and the need to go back to the people to resolve the logjam.
“The UK results are dramatic and cry out for a new referendum,” he told the Chronicle.
“The younger generation are making their voice heard at last.”
“The votes cast show a victory for remaining in the EU. This is hugely significant.”
“It is now a clear betrayal of democracy to proceed to leave the EU based on a stale referendum result stolen three years ago by leavers based on lies and unicorns.”
“Honouring democracy requires a new referendum.”
Reacting to the Gibraltar results of the EU vote, Mr Picardo also welcomed the increase in local turnout to 40%.
Although low, it was the second highest turnout for an EU election since Gibraltar first voted in elections to the European Parliament, up seven points from the last European election.
“I am very pleased for [Gibraltarian Lib Dev candidate] Luke Stagnetto and for Joseph Garcia [the leader of the Liberal Party in Gibraltar],” he said.
“The Liberal Party has once again shown the value of its international links to Gibraltar.”
Dr Joseph Garcia, the leader of the Liberal Party in Gibraltar and the Deputy Chief Minister, agreed broadly with the assessment.
“The result of the EU elections in Gibraltar, a landslide win for the Liberal Democrats, were a solid reaffirmation of our desire to remain in the European Union,” he said.
“Indeed, pro-Remain parties across the United Kingdom polled more votes that pro-Brexit parties.”
Dr Garcia noted that the result for the south west England and Gibraltar region had delivered three pro-remain MEPs and three pro-Brexit MEPs.
“I am pleased to see two Liberal Democrats in that number, although sorry that friends of Gibraltar like Claire Moody and Ashley Fox have lost their seats,” he said.
“In general terms, the UK continues to be as divided on Brexit as ever. It is impossible to predict what will happen next.”
“The only certainty is a race for the leadership of the Conservative party from which a new Prime Minister will emerge.”
“Gibraltar is in a good position with friends on both sides of the argument, although it is in our best interests to remain.”
Keith Azopardi, the leader of the Gibraltar Social Democrats, said Gibraltar had clearly reaffirmed its backing for parties that supported Remain and a People’s Vote.
“There is no doubt that this is where we stand as a community,” he said.
“Understandably there is also anger as to how the EU has treated Gibraltar over the last few years. That may have led some people to stay away or support the Brexit Party.”
“It is nevertheless clear that we overwhelmingly back remain options.”
“Beyond Gibraltar, the vote illustrates the continuing deadlock in the UK and the fact that three years on, it is still possible to hope for an outcome that best protects Gibraltar and averts Brexit.”
“In the GSD we will continue our efforts towards that.”
Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon, who leads the Together Gibraltar party, echoed the sentiment and said the Lib Dem vote in Gibraltar illustrated this community’s collective desire to remain in the EU.
“Gibraltar rallied around the clearest remain party and once again sent a clear message to the UK and to Europe on where the local sentiment was at,” she said.
“Nevertheless, for a centre that voted 96% to remain in the referendum only three years ago, it won’t be lost on political observers that the 8% vote for the Brexit Party was also a manifestation of our anger and frustration at the treatment towards Gibraltar in Brussels, London and Madrid.”
Ms Hassan Nahon said that while the Brexit Party had topped the polls in the UK, pro-Remain parties together made for a pro-European majority in terms of vote share, adding that support for the Greens also pointed to greater awareness of environmental issues.
Ms Hassan Nahon also welcomed the stronger polling by the Socialists in Spain, adding that PSOE candidates had been been explicit about their belief in European cooperation.
“Gibraltar has equally been clear that we believe in this project and it’s up to our politicians to take them to task and ensure their European camaraderie extends to Gibraltar,” she said.
Ms Hassan Nahon welcomed too the surge in support for Liberal and Green parties across the EU and the fact that equality and environmental policies were getting increased support.
“Together Gibraltar clearly shares these values and we hope that we can work with the EU and do Gibraltar’s part to build a more equitable, progressive Europe,” she said.
“Gibraltar is witnessing first-hand the damage the general Brexit indecision is causing and while we hope to work with government to ensure more companies do not feel compelled to abandon the Rock, there is only so much we can do without clarity or leadership on the Brexit crisis from the UK.”
Pic by Johnny Bugeja