Gibraltar’s Chief Minister: Our country needs EU

LAST UPDATED: 24 Mar, 2016 @ 07:30

IN our thriving and modern small nation, native Gibraltarians and people from Britain, Europe, and further flung corners of our planet, have been living and working together for over 300 years.

Fabian Picardo
Fabian Picardo

So I always feel a little ambivalent about the description ‘ex-pat’ which sounds rather outdated after so many decades within the European Union.

The fact that many of you come over regularly to the Rock to share in our diet of British sausages, Sunday roasts and a pint down at the pub, is perhaps a simple reminder of the fact that British values and traditions are very much alive in all our hearts.

But of course, those values are not just down to nosh. Democracy and fair play are just a couple of the traits that underpin our way of life.

Many of you will be able to vote in the coming referendum as UK nationals living abroad who have been on the electoral register in Britain for the past 15 years, and have therefore been enfranchised.

We in Gibraltar will be voting en masse to stay, and I would urge you all to also vote to remain EU citizens.

In Spain alone there are some 319,000 potential British voters. The Rock has 23,000.

All of us share similar concerns.

We also face real uncertainties, given that the British Government itself has stated unambiguously that Brexit is a step into the dark.

I don’t believe in ‘Project Fear’, but I would say that Brexit is simply about the practical realities of a huge and costly divorce.

This, in circumstances in which Prime Minister David Cameron has already shown it is not impossible to reverse many of the issues that annoy us.

The way the EU conducts its business can be changed, and we can steer Europe and our national sovereignty in the direction we choose, but only if we remain members.

I suspect that those of us living in continental Europe have a deeper sense of the important role the EU plays in underwriting our peace and prosperity.

In practical terms, you will all be wondering what will happen to medical services and pensions, if the EU is no longer there to ensure you receive the same payments and services as you would at home in your member state, the UK.

Don’t let it happen. Let’s avoid these pointless risks.

If Brexit does occur the reality would be a whirl of slow, probably chaotic, horse trading and negotiating.

It’s unlikely that any state will offer a service or facility to now ‘foreign residents’ that is not equally reciprocated by the UK, say, for Spaniards working and living there.

Depending on who is in power in Madrid, Gibraltar could face uncertainty at the border. It is not about survival, but it is about economics and quality of life.

We in Gibraltar will fight on and prosper. But why break something that only needs fixing?

Would Spain and/or the new EU want us all to have Schengen visas?

That’s just one in a thousand-plus questions that can be avoided by joining in protecting our common interest and voting to remain part of a dynamic Europe.

Please use your right to vote. ‘Stay’ and enjoy your life under this splendid southern sun.

And the best of British luck to us all!

Gib Rocks - the magazine for Gibraltar

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