NONE of us remember life before we were born but many of us should recall a time when the European Union did not exist in its present form.
Millennials and those born at the end of Generation X (i.e. 1980’s – 2000) can consult their history books and older people with bad memories can do so too.
There was a time before Brussels ruled Europe when countries in our extended and highly successful family of nations traded with each other and were able to deliver to their populations the highest standards of living in the world.
This is not the place to enter into a one sided discussion on why it is that even as the EU has become more powerful, Europe has lost its competitive advantage not just to the US and Japan but also to China and in several respects India too.
This column is intended to look at more practical outcomes post Brexit.
Thus, Donald Trump’s victory in the Presidential Election suggests that the United Kingdom may now become the US’s preferred trading partner over and above the EU.
Closer to home, there are interesting developments in the relationship between Gibraltar which is likely to withdraw from the EU together with the UK on the one hand and staunchly grateful, pro EU Spain.
The dismissal of the aggressively anti-Gibraltarian Spanish Foreign Minister Margallo promises a return to common sense.
Politicians in the Spanish areas near Gibraltar and even further afield, possibly as far away as the Castilian heartlands appear to be considering whether it might not be a good idea after all, post Brexit, to encourage good neighbourly relations.
Javier Sanchez Rojas, the president of the Cadiz Business Confederation last week highlighted the importance of “quantifying” the benefits to both sides of good commercial relationships on either side of the Frontier.
He referred to the Fletcher report commissioned by the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce in 2015 which found that Gibraltar is responsible for one in four jobs in the Campo de Gibraltar and 25% of its GDP.
Sanchez Rojas rightly said that there should be a similar impact study on how much Gibraltar benefits from fluidity in business with the neighbouring region.
It is as wrong headed for Gibraltarians to ignore our ties with the hinterland as it was for Margallo to look down his nose at Gibraltar.
The maximization of use of the Gibraltar airport, cooperation among the ports of Gibraltar and Algeciras, the development of a joint tourism product, coordination by the universities, schools, training centres, hospitals, clinics and a long etcetera are what politicians must now focus on.
None of these common sense aims require membership of the European Union.
In recent times there has been a groundswell of activity among trades unions, business associations and citizens’ groups on both sides of the Gibraltar border aimed at strengthening neighbourly links via the creation of European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation.
Dr. Martin Guillermo of the European Association of Frontier Regions recently explained that regardless of Brexit, institutional cooperation of the kind promoted by his high powered organization would survive the UK’s withdrawal from the EU when it comes to cross-border agreements involving Gibraltar.
If by some quirk of fate the UK does remain, good, but we do not elect politicians to be professional doomsayers.
They stand for election and are voted in to provide solutions to challenges. Even as they thunder about whether or not and how and when Article 50 is implemented, the powers that be must have the vision and courage to promote practical regional cooperation.
Already there are some encouraging noises coming from various political leaders but more must be done and the pace needs to quicken.
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