Fabian Picardo: "We have surpassed greater challenges"

2016-07-09 07:00:00

The mood in Gibraltar is sombre this morning as its citizens awake to the realisation that Britain is leaving the EU and will be dragging Gibraltar with it, against their wishes. The resignation of British prime minister David Cameron, who has always shown strong support for the Rock, has only added to the apprehension, because Gibraltar now faces a very uncertain future.
The people of Gibraltar do not have a vote in British elections, but as residents of the only British Overseas Territory in Europe they were included in the franchise for the referendum.
24,117 people in Gibraltar were registered to vote yesterday, and 20,174 did so: a turnout of 83.64% When the result was announced, nearly 96 per cent (19,322) had voted for Britain to remain in the EU. 823 voted to Leave
Mixed feelings
The mood in Gibraltar was optimistic at first, after the voting ended and polls seemed to indicate quite a healthy lead for Remain, but it didn’t last long. Gibraltar was the first to announce its results, but as others came in it became evident that support for leaving the EU was gaining ground.
Chief minister Fabian Picardo and opposition leader Danny Feetham were quick to issue messages to the people of Gibraltar early this morning, as the Leave win was confirmed.
Mr Picardo tweeted: “We have surpassed greater challenges. It is time for unity, for calm and for rational thinking. Together & united we will continue to prosper.”
Mr Feetham’s message, also on Twitter, said “We must deal in hope. We have a duty to set out a positive and workable road map for the future. I remain positive that we can do that.”
The chief minister called a cabinet meeting for 10am to assess the EU referendum result, telling the media outside No. 6 that it was “business as usual,” and it was announced that he would address parliament at 3pm.
What does Brexit mean for Gibraltar?
Gibraltar’s economy relies hugely on the EU and access to the single market. In an article in The New Statesman in May, the chief minister said the EU had been “at the heart of our commercial success in a fast-changing economic world.” Now that Gibraltar is to leave the EU, the prospects for its shipping trade, online gaming industry and finance centre could be devastating.
Another of Gibraltar’s fears about the prospect of a Brexit has always been Spain’s expected reaction. In a radio interview several months ago, Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo said that if the UK voted to leave the EU the matter of Gibraltar’s sovereignty would be on the table the very next day. He later proposed that Gibraltar consider joint sovereignty as a way of maintaining access to the single market, a suggestion which was swiftly rejected by the Gibraltar government.
This morning in another radio interview Mr Margallo, who is now the acting foreign minister - Spain is holding a second General Election on Sunday – again called for joint sovereignty and said that the prospect of the Spanish flag flying on the Rock of Gibraltar is now a much closer possibility than before.
Acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy didn’t mention Gibraltar when responding to the news of the UK’s vote to leave the EU: he said the Spanish government noted Britain’s decision with sadness and that Spain is committed to and will defend greater European economic and political integration.
At the moment, nobody in Gibraltar knows what to expect once the Brexit dust has settled. Some are defiant and stolidly insisting that the people of the Rock are strong enough to overcome any adversity, and others are fearful of what the future will bring.
Just like in the UK at the moment. Nobody knows what will happen now.source surinenglish