The effect of Brexit on Gibraltar concerns the status of Gibraltar after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The UK voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum and formally notified the EU of its intention to withdraw in March 2017. Gibraltar is not part of the UK but, as a British Overseas Territory, participated in the referendum and will, by default, cease to be a part of the EU upon the UK's withdrawal.
Gibraltar's position during the process of UK withdrawal from the European Union presents unique issues during the negotiations. Gibraltar voted strongly to remain in the European Union during the referendum, and its unique situation could lead to difficulties in Brexit negotiations due to the Spanish claim on Gibraltar, the large contribution of on-line gambling, offshore banking and duty-free shopping, to the Gibraltar economy, and the possibility that Gibraltar will cease to be a part of the single market. With the British government's initiation of the official EU withdrawal process on 29 March 2017, Gibraltar's participation of the United Kingdom's European Union membership will cease to exist by 30 March 2019 (unless all parties to the negotiations agree otherwise).
Gibraltar did not participate in the 1975 UK European Communities membership referendum even though the result directly impacted on its membership and did not participate in any European Parliamentary Elections between 1979 and 1999 but in 2002 legislation was passed by the British Parliament which allowed Gibraltar to formally take part in the 2004 European Parliament election as part of the South West European Parliament constituency in all subsequent European elections. Following the surprise election victory by the Conservatives in May 2015 it was announced that Gibraltar would fully participate in the proposed referendum on continuing EU membership and was legislated for in the European Union Referendum Act 2015. This meant that Gibraltar was the only British Overseas Territory in the European Union (EU) and uniquely it has the right to vote in EU elections and in referenda.
In 2015, Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo suggested that Gibraltar would attempt to remain part of the EU in the event the UK voted to leave, but reaffirmed that, regardless of the result, the territory would remain a British overseas territory In a letter to the UK Foreign Affairs Select Committee, he requested that Gibraltar be considered in negotiations post-Brexit.
Before the referendum, José García-Margallo, the Spanish minister of foreign affairs at the time stated that in case of Brexit, Gibraltar would not have access to the single market unless a formula giving Spain co-sovereignty were agreed for a transitional period; after the referendum, he saw the result as increasing the chance of a Spanish flag on Gibraltar. He also said Spain would seek talks on Gibraltar, whose status is disputed, the "very next day" after a British exit from the EU.
United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016
|Remain a member of the European Union||19,322||95.91%|
|Leave the European Union||823||4.09%|
|Registered voters and turnout||24,119||83.64%|
|Source: Electoral Commission|
The European Union (Referendum) Act 2016 (Gibraltar), was passed by the Gibraltar Parliament and implemented in Gibraltar after the European Union Referendum Act 2015 was passed by the UK Parliament.
During the campaign leading up to the United Kingdom's national referendum on whether to leave the European Union (known as "Brexit") the Spanish government warned that if the UK chose to leave, Spain would push to reclaim control over Gibraltar. The Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo warned the UK of the threat to Gibraltar's safety posed by Brexit. All three parties represented in the legislature supported remaining in the EU during the Referendum and the Remain campaign was known as Gibraltar Stronger in Europe.
The referendum result within Gibraltar was declared early on Friday 24 June 2016 by the counting officer and Clerk to the Gibraltar Parliament Paul Martinez at the University of Gibraltar at 0040 CEST making it the first of the 382 voting areas to declare and its result was fed into the South West England regional count and then the overall national count. The result saw the single biggest "Remain" vote of all the 382 voting areas with only 4% of Gibraltarian voters opting to leave on a very high turnout of 84% with large queues reported at the Polling stations. Overall the United Kingdom voted narrowly by 51.9% to 48.1% to leave the European Union. Despite the overwhelming vote to remain in the European Union Gibraltar will be leaving the European Union as it was a popular vote of the whole of the United Kingdom.
Gibraltar has no direct say in the negotiations between the UK and the 27 remaining countries of the European Union (EU27); the duty and responsibility of dealing with foreign affairs rest with the UK, as do the duties of defence and internal security in Gibraltar.:11
Robin Walker MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Department for Exiting the European Union visited Gibraltar in March 2017 to discuss Brexit with Fabian Picardo Chief Minister of Gibraltar and Joseph Garcia Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar.
The European Council released a series of guidelines for the EU27 on negotiations for withdrawal. Within these guidelines, core principle number 22 stated that "After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom". Pro-Brexit conservative M.P. Jack Lopresti thought it shameful that the EU would attempt to allow Spain an effective veto over the future of British sovereign territory, ignoring the will of the people of Gibraltar. Foreign minister Boris Johnson re-iterated the United Kingdom's commitment to Gibraltar.
Esteban González Pons, a Spanish MEP and chairman of the Brexit working group of the European People's Party, met with Ireland’s Minister for European affairs Dara Murphy in May, when he (Pons) called Gibraltar a "colony" and pushed for support for the Spanish position that the status of the Rock is a bilateral issue solely for the UK and Spain to resolve. Ireland recognises that the issue is a bilateral one but wishes to avoid parallels being drawn with the status of Northern Ireland. Murphy stated that “Ireland will address issues regarding the nature of the relationship of Gibraltar with the European Union post-Brexit as and when they arise in the course of negotiations on the future relationship of the UK with the European Union.”
On April 2017, former director of operational capability at the UK Ministry of Defence, Rear Admiral Chris Parry said, “We could cripple Spain in the medium term and I think the Americans would probably support us too.
The day after the result Spain's acting Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, renewed calls for joint Spanish–British control of the peninsula. These calls were strongly rebuffed by Gibraltar's Chief Minister. After the result Spain reiterated its position that it wanted to jointly govern Gibraltar with the United Kingdom and said it would seek to block Gibraltar from participating in talks over future deals between the UK and EU.
Theresa May reiterated that "the UK would seek the best possible deal for Gibraltar as the UK exits the EU, and there would be no negotiation on the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the consent of its people.”
In April 2018, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis announced that Spain hopes to sign off on a bilateral agreement with Britain over Gibraltar before October so as not to hinder a Brexit transition deal. Talks between London and Madrid had progressed well. While reiterating the Spanish long-term aim of "recovering" Gibraltar, he said that Spain would not hold Gibraltar as a "hostage" to the EU negotiations.
Gibraltar, like Britain, is outside the Schengen Area. All people crossing the border to/from Spain have therefore always been required to go through British and Spanish border controls. 10,000 people living in La Línea, in Spain, cross the border every day to work in Gibraltar. La Línea has an unemployment rate of 35% whereas Gibraltar has a 1% unemployment rate.
Gibraltar is not part of the EU's customs union, so there are more detailed checks on goods moving over the Spanish-Gibraltar border.
Finance Centre Director James Tipping told a European Parliament committee in May that the finance industry in Gibraltar is essential to the economy of the Rock. The industry was resigned to a loss of access to the EU market but had been given firm assurances that Gibraltar would have greater access to UK markets which will bring opportunities.
... peu avant le vote britannique, le ministre des affaires étrangères espagnol d’alors, José Manuel Garcia-Margallo, avait affirmé qu’' en cas de Brexit Gibraltar n’aurait pas accès au marché intérieur, à moins que [ne soit] accept[é] une formule qui suppose la cosouveraineté de l’Espagne durant une période transitoire'. M. Garcia-Margallo s’était ensuite félicité du vote pro-Brexit en soulignant que 'le drapeau espagnol sur le Rocher n’a jamais été aussi proche'. [... shortly before the British vote, the then Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Garcia-Margallo, stated that 'in the event of Brexit, Gibraltar would not have access to the internal market, unless a formula were agreed that provided for Spanish co-sovereignty for a transitional period'. Mr Garcia-Margallo later welcomed the pro-Brexit vote, emphasizing that 'the Spanish flag on the Rock has never been so close'.]
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