Gibraltar voters turn out for EU referendum
Gibraltar is no stranger to referendums; it has held them in the past about whether to remain British or whether to accept joint sovereignty between Britain and Spain, but this one is unusual because, of course, it is the first time anyone on the Rock has voted on whether or not Britain should remain part of the EU.
The people of Gibraltar are not able to vote in UK General elections – Gibraltar has its own government, elected every four years, and parliament – but as the only British Overseas Territory to be part of the EU it was included in the franchise for this referendum.
It is its status as part of the EU which is expected to result in Gibraltar voting resoundingly for the UK to remain. Its economy relies very much on the single market and free movement of goods and people across the border, and there is concern about Spain’s actions if Gibraltar were no longer to be part of the EU: if the UK leaves, Gibraltar automatically does as well.
Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo has already said that if Britain votes to leave the EU, the subject of Gibraltar will be on the table the very next day, and has yet again proposed joint sovereignty on the grounds that it would be the only way it could retain access to the single market in the event of a Brexit. The Gibraltar government was swift to respond that joint sovereignty would not be considered, under any circumstances.
There is also concern that Spain could close the border with Gibraltar if Britain left the EU. Many local families remember the years when the border was closed by General Franco, and it only fully reopened in 1985 as a condition of Spain joining the EU.
With the potentially devastating effects of a Brexit firmly on their minds, all political parties in Gibraltar set aside their differences and have been campaigning together to urge the local population to vote to Remain. 24,117 people were entitled to vote in the referendum, and turnout was brisk from the moment the polls opened at 7am. By 2pm over 40 per cent of the population had already cast their vote.
Of course, nothing is ever certain and some voices in Gibraltar have spoken out to say they would prefer Britain to leave the EU, but as voters continue to head to their polling stations in the Mediterranean sunshine, it is fair to say that most people believe the Rock will send a resounding message to the world that they want Britain to Remain.source surinenglish