16 Oct, 2016 @ 13:07
2 mins read

Is the EU really in a position to face down the UK?

Charles Gomez
Charles Gomez

I HAVE been gratified by the many emails and private messages that I have received arising from this series.

Some of the inquiries have related to legal advice unconnected to Brexit which I and other members of my team have been delighted to answer.

However the bulk of the interest has been to do with implications of Brexit for Gibraltarians and other British citizens residing in Spain.

Brexit is very much terra incognita but there is a great deal of information out there which should allow one to predict likely outcomes.

As I said in a talk in Rabat, Morocco last week, the economic data does not support the doomsday scenario painted by many people who voted to remain.

On the one hand the UK economy continues to present as much more solid than those of its European neighbours. So much so, that in late September the Organization for European Cooperation and Development (OECD) which continues to prescribe austerity for most other countries in the EU recommended an increase in British public spending. This is not a turn of events which can be ignored.

Internally, the Office of National Statistics reports that the impact of Brexit on consumer confidence has been “negligible”.

Pressekongerenz anlässlich des Trefens zwischen Bundesfinanzmin
Yannis Varoufakis

On the other side of the fence, prognoses for the rest of the EU appear to be less bright. Ex-Greek Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis says that the EU is “disintegrating” because it is “badly constructed” and has failed in terms of the banking union, the economy, public debt and migration.

Varoufakis highlights the failure of European leaders to recognize that there is a crisis. Of course, the ways of the Ostrich are always a precursor for disaster but I for one stop short of his conclusion that the collapse of the EU will be as “quick and painful” as it was in Greece.

So, is the EU really in a position to face down the UK?
merkelFor “EU” many read “Germany” and the powerful Frau Merkel in particular. Will Germany support Mr. Hollande’s and Mr. Juncker’s threats to make Brexit as painful to the UK as possible?

The figures suggest otherwise. The UK accounts for 20.5% of Germany’s entire trade surplus (€51bn). This at a time when Germany’s losses in loan interest to the European Central Bank are said to amount to €125bn and the costs of its immigration policy have been estimated as €400bn from 2016-2036.

Logic dictates that Germany will want to protect its trading advantage and one does not need to be a Nigel Farage to conclude this.

Closer to home, the Spanish economy continues to be fragile. Despite recent improvements, the unemployment rate of 21.4% (2015) is a whopping twice the size of that of e.g. Turkey.

Tourists crowd Palma de Mallorca's Arenal beach on the Spanish Balearic island of MallorcaOne of Spain’s traditional major industries is, of course, tourism and long-term visitors to the country. Would Madrid want to prejudice this?

Recent reports from the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce and organizations in nearby parts of Spain have suggested that the Gibraltarian economy accounts for up to 25% of activity in the Campo de Gibraltar. Would Madrid want to prejudice this?

We live in strange times. Politicians in many countries appear to have become detached from the realities on the ground but, wherever one looks the hard facts tend to show that it is in everybody’s interest to ensure that Brexit is carried out in an orderly fashion and in a spirit of continuing cooperation.

What do you think?

Charles Gomez (OP Columnist)

Charles Gomez has been a barrister for more than thirty years and is currently an Honorary Professor of International Law at the University of Cadiz, where he hosts lectures in English and Spanish.
Readers of the Olive Press are invited to discuss this or any other legal matter with Charles Gomez by emailing charles@gomezco.gi


  1. Since you ask. I think the whole referendum exercise should be treated as advisory only (as it legally is) and then, after a a parliamentary vote, completely rejected as the piece of foolishness it manifestly is.

  2. I think Brexit is a complete basket case before it’s even got off the ground. For a start, the electorate were fed a pack of lies by both sides of the campaign and most people didn’t have a clue (and still don’t) what Brexit would like look or how much it would impact their lives. If the referendum was re-run tomorrow, it would be a Remain vote for sure because even Brexiteers are sick of the uncertainty and if they are honest, it is not what they thought it would be. Also, if you consider the demographic shift in five years’ time i.e. old Leave voters dying off, younger voters coming through etc, the result would be very different again.

    So let’s stop clutching at straws, hoping for the best and thinking that the EU will play ball because is isn’t going to happen, it is not in their interests to do so and yes, they will cut off their nose to spite their face. Once A50 has been triggered, I think the EU will sit back and let the clock run down and once the 2 years has passed, we will have no new deals in place and will be forced to adopt WTO tariffs.

    I think we should join the EEA post Brexit and if the EU falls apart thereafter, then so be it but the UK walking out and becoming a pariah is not the way forward.

    • If you believe in democracy and you want to make a difference then you take part in elections and referendums. If the vote does not go your way then you get on with life and do what you can to help or make that decision work. Anything else means that you do not believe in democracy only in your point of view, in that case do not bother voting.

      • I would agree with you if the referendum campaign had not been such a complete fiasco. Boris has been caught out for lying through his teeth, UKIP are falling apart and people were badly misled and that makes a difference. The whole approach to the referendum result is far too simplistic and what really matters now is how we leave the EU, what kind of Brexit we get and how it will affect peoples’ lives so the debate is far from over.

  3. If Juncker’s gang refuses to negotiate with Brexit to offer reasonable protections for immigrants and businesses,Theresa May can refuse to give the final OK, and toss it back to both a real public referendum, and parliamentary debate and vote. What then? UK is till in the EU, and Juncker’s gang may be forced out and reforms begin. This is a scenario obliquely suggested by among others, economist Joseph E. Stiglitz from Columbia University. LaGarde has very recently stated that EU wouldn’t be in this position if they responded to people with reforms instead of threats, though there are problems with La Garde’s historical positions.
    Could this be the beginning of a paradigm shift?

  4. “The likes of Germany and Spain rely on UK investment”
    must be a joke, no?
    nobody relies on uk investement, except the uk and its anachronic colonies.

    as for the economy of spain, germany or the eu, it is none of your business.

    “On the one hand the UK economy continues to present as much more solid than those of its European neighbours”
    and why they have such a terrible healthcare system then?

    get off your high horse, gómez.

  5. Pablo cabron, you would still be riding donkeys (and mistreating them) without the countless billions pumped into your corrupt country. Cabron, we are the second biggest contributor to the EU.

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