THE UK’s only continental border is with the Southern Andalucian town of La Linea de la Concepcion, which developed as a dormitory town for Gibraltar and gained the Charter of a city in 1870.

La Linea is one of the places, like Gibraltar, where the theories and windy notions of Brexit become hard reality. Centuries before the founding fathers of the “European idea“, Adenauer, Monnet, Schuman et al were born, a relationship of good, if sometimes uneasy, neighbourliness grew on either side of the old battle line separating British from Spanish territory.

The Municipal Government of La Linea has just published a study on the impact for the City of Brexit.

With a population of 63,352 (more than double that of Gibraltar) it has the highest unemployment rate in Spain (35.33%); 10,000 of its citizens including non-Spaniards who live there, work in Gibraltar and bring home €97,500,000 a year. In other words it exists largely because of the economic engine of Gibraltar and, in turn Gibraltar’s economy depends on the free flow of people and goods via the border and to a great extent, the services provided by Linenses and other inhabitants of the Campo de Gibraltar.

According to the latest Fletcher Report commissioned in 2015 by the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce Gibraltar imports goods and services from Spain to an annual value of £380,890,000.

Would anyone in their right mind want to prejudice this? Surely well-meaning politicians on all sides are working to improve relations……

The last time that Madrid played hardball with Gibraltar and closed the frontier in 1969, the Report says that 30,000 Linenses had to emigrate (many Gibraltarians also did). Even the then Francoist mayor openly called the closure “una barbaridad” (an act of barbarism). Interestingly when he was military Governor of the Campo de Gibraltar in the 1950s, General Muñoz Grandes had been careful to ensure that national Spanish policies  did not damage the interests of working Spaniards and businesses. No one ever accused Muñoz Grandes of being unpatriotic – he was after all a veteran of the African wars and the commander in chief of the 20,000 Spanish volunteers who formed part of the German invading force of Russia as pay back for Russian support of the defeated Spanish Republic; he was one time vice-president to Franco. Still, in 1969 other less thoughtful people thought that it was acceptable to sacrifice the Campo de Gibraltar; and the rest, as they say, is history.

Post the Brexit referendum, Gibraltarians who voted massively to remain but are now realising that “Brexit means Brexit” (no hate mail please)  and our neighbours in the La Linea are getting nervous. Until he was replaced as foreign minister last November Jose Garcia Margallo seemed to suggest that he would use Brexit to put pressure at what Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calls Gibraltar’s “choke point,” the frontier.

It is unclear whether there is still a Margallista strain in the Palacio de Santa Cruz or whether the new incumbent Don Alfonso María Dastis Quecedo, a career diplomat and lawyer (the latter always a good sign) from Jerez de la Frontera, will help revive the spirit of co-operation of the kind that former Gibraltar Chief Minister Sir Peter Caruana created together with then Foreign Ministers Miguel Angel Moratinos and David Milliband in the so-called Cordoba tri-lateral process.

To be able to weather Brexit seas all parties must resist nationalist clarion calls. Gibraltar too needs to take initiatives whether directly or via London. Two ideas immediately come to mind – the first is to agree freedom of movement of all Spaniards (and of course British residents in Spain) in Gibraltar and vice versa. Nothing new; in fact the status quo ante Brexit. In fact Fabian Picardo could lead the way and do this unilaterally by amendment to Gibraltarian legislation. Surely the UK would not object.

The second, given the security implications quite rightly addressed by the Schengen arrangements, is to facilitate co-operation between law enforcement agencies  and the military on both sides of the frontier. The 92,000 strong Spanish Guardia Civil has thrown off historical baggage and is now very popular among Spaniards. On the whole, it is a thoroughly professional hugely motivated body – according to the Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police Eddie Yome, security in the Bay of Gibraltar / Algeciras is maintained as a result of co-operation (not just with Spanish but also Moroccan law enforcement). It is in everyone’s interests that the police and military on all sides be allowed to create a safety zone where no vessel can go undetected and if necessary challenged in the Straits region. This can only be achieved without political interference and the implementation of a rational and respectful system of hot pursuit.

There will be many other areas including education and health as well, of course as trade.

Whether we like it or not Brexit invites us to be brave and initiative to ensure that the daily lives of people  are not negatively affected but are in fact improved. We need to draw the line under the old and tired style of politics in our region.


      • The name of the Bay has always been Bay of Gibraltar, even before Algeciras was renamed as such. It was named of Gibraltar because it dominates the entrance and is an iconic landmark which is even used to place in people’s minds where the Algeciras Port is, by Algeciras itself everywhere. Much like La Linea which uses the Rock Gibraltar as an icon. Like it or not, that’s how it is.

          • Toponomia? Muchos tops veo yo.

            Did you know that Google Earth was hounded to change the name of Bay of Gibraltar by people who think that just by changing the name the Bay would belong to them ipsofacto only a few years ago and just to get you off their backs it now has the two names?

            Did you know that the name Bay of Gibraltar is divided down the middle, half is British Territorial Waters and your half of the Bay if Gibraltar is under Spanish jurisdiction, making the name of the bay irrelevant to ownership?

            Did you know that the 30,000 people you dismiss have the third highest per capita economy in the world making us very relevant indeed?

            Did you know 12,000 workers who live, and spend their money in Spain, cross the frontier every day to work in Gibraltar and that Gibraltar has less than 4% unemployment unlike the surrounding area where the figure is more like in the thirt per cent. How irrelevant we are to those people, no?

  1. “THE UK’s only continental border is with the Southern Andalucian town of La Linea de la Concepcion…”
    The UK is an island in northern Europe, they dont have any continental border with Andalucía.

    “Surely well-meaning politicians on all sides are working to improve relations……”
    Improving relations with an anachronistic colony situated in Spanish territory?
    Of course not.
    They are now out of the EU and out of the single market.
    The relationship must be kept to a minimun.
    And the border should be strictly controlled due to the massive smuggling from Gibraltar.

    Finally, dont worry about the “Spanish” (most of them are not Spaniards) workers. There is an advanced project to establish a Zona Franca in La Línea, so try to focus in your own business.
    You will have a lot of issues to solve in 2 months.

    • Of course there are Spanish workers. I live and work in Gibraltar and have seen with my own eyes – there are many, many Spanish workers.
      And Gibraltar is not located “in Spanish territory” it is located in territory which has belonged to the United Kingdom (ceded by the Spanish) under the Treaty of Utretcht since 1713.
      While you’re on the subject, why not go and speak to Teresa May and have a nice chat about the Falkland Islands – see how far you get? We’ll be here waiting.

      • So there are Spanish workers there… and now YOU lot are worried about them…yeah, right.
        This is not an excuse to keep the border open, it is just a cheap chantage
        Again,try to focus on your own problems.

        About the Treaty of Utrecht, is that the same treaty that gave Britain the monopoly on oceanic slave trade to the Americas?
        Is that the same treaty that says: “”the Catholic King wills, and takes it to be understood that the above-named propriety be yielded to Great Britain without any territorial jurisdiction”). Therefore, the Treaty would not have ceded any part of the isthmus?

        And about Malvinas, as you can see, we have another problem with the same common denominator: Britain.

        • The people of Gibraltar and La Linea get along very well together, we do business with each other, we trade with each other, Spanish come to Gibraltar for events, we go to Spain for events, they stay at our hotels and we stay at theirs. We are neighbours and friends. How about not speaking, so ignorantly, on behalf of the people of La Linea?

    • Pablo you still don’t get it. It’s the other way round, the EU have a lot of issues to solve in two months and if they don’t the UK will just walk away, simple as that. All issues solved. May I also remind you the UK is not out of the EU or the single market yet.

      • Don’t worry Carlos, Spain is about to find out what Donald Trump meant when he spoke of America First! No free trade, Hefty Border taxes for anything coming from outside, Foreign placed Factories manufacturing American goods such as cars etc will find it very expensive to sell these items to USA ..wait till it filters through to the world, not pretty! There is a Spanish saying…”No le desees el mal a tu vecino, porque el tuyo viene de camino”

    • Do you know how many times, possibly before you were born, that promises of Zona Franca have been publucized ‘a bombo y platillo’ only to fizzle down to nothing? The only way the area would have had a chance to develop would have been if Brexit had not happened because the CM of Gibraltar was ready to bring businesses and create jobs in the area. You keep mentioning Zona Franca as a cure all for the area’s problems with unemployment, as if it would pose a threatvto Gibraltar. It doesn’t, or wouldn’t if it became a reality. But I doubt you would ever understand this seeing that all people like you are obsessed with is sovereignty. Sit down and rest, because it isn’t going to happen. Brexit has not happened yet either, it might never do, so at the very least, two more years of waiting in store for you. My guess is none of us will be here for the next 300 years, so why worry, be happy.

      • The thing is that it is Gibraltar who wants an open border, not Spain.
        Gibraltar is totally unviable without Spain, because it is an integral part of its territory.
        I know it is a bit difficult for you to understand, but what can you expect when you have been “educated” in gibraltar, arguably the poorest education system in the western world?

    • Pablo I must admit I do have a smile reading your comments. I wonder what your take is on Ceuta or Melilla or even the Canary Islands. Why not hand them back, Spain stole the Canary Island from the indigenous population by sheer strength, ya know, a bit like Britain stealing Gibraltar from Spain by sheer strength. Perhaps if Spain handed back the named places perhaps it may entice Britain to do the same in handing back Gib to Spain, but don’t hold your breath or live on hope. As you have mentioned La Linea and not sure if it’s true, but I did hear that La Linea really took off due to the amount of bordellos that opened up along the sea front due to the soldiers manning the “LINE” of the guns. Are they still there as I understand it’s quite acceptable in Spain. Lol

  2. I have to say that in my opinion, this is a thoughtful and well written article with many sensible comments. We all know there should be cooperation between Gibraltar and Spain, and that, I think has started to happen. At the last count there were about 10,000 spaniards from la Linea working in Gibraltar and no one in their right minds would want to stop that. Can you imagine how the Spanish ( or Andalucian in particular) economy would react if 10,000 suddenly required social security and welfare, on top of the already over burdened situation. It just needs a bit of common sense, and the fact that what happened over three hundred years ago, is history. Just as Brexit will happen and will become history. Having a pop at each other through the press will gain nothing. Politicians need to sit around the table and discuss the matter sensibly. The Trial-lateral talks started to do that, but an election got in the way.

  3. The TRUTH according to the Gibraltar Goverment,
    The Gibraltar Government’s written evidence was published by the Lords committee last week and reflects Mr Picardo’s oral submissions during a session in London last month.
    The 32-page document highlighted key issues such as Gibraltar’s position on sovereignty and its view that Britain must guard against any move by Spain to use Brexit to further its aspirations over the Rock.
    And while it also set out Gibraltar’s efforts to generate new areas of business outside the EU, the submission was clear that when it comes to Brexit, “there are for Gibraltar few opportunities worthy of mention.”
    While much of the sentiment in the evidence has already been publicly rehearsed, the detailed “heat mapping” of the sectorial impact of Brexit on the border has never been revealed before.
    Using data from October 2015, the study found that out of a total workforce of 26,144 employees, 10,473 jobs in Gibraltar were held by frontier workers.
    Of those cross-border workers, 5,824 were Spanish nationals, a figure that fluctuated daily and increased sharply when there were construction projects in Gibraltar.
    In key sectors of the economy, the potential impact of a troublesome border were plainly evident, in particular when it came to financial services and online gaming, which together account for 40% of the Gibraltar’s GDP.
    A total of 1,031 frontier workers were employed in financial services, accounting for 30% of all jobs in that sector, while the figure rose to 1,761 employees, or 60%, in the online gaming sector.
    “It cannot be assumed that these frontier workers would relocate to Gibraltar in the event of a harder, non-fluid border,” the government’s analysis said.
    “The majority of them are in the lower paid sectors and will not be able to afford to reside in Gibraltar [while] those in the higher paid sectors may be unlikely to want to move to Gibraltar, and, in any event, there is presently a shortage of space and housing stock in Gibraltar to be able to accommodate any significant number of them.”

  4. Dear ‘joe’,

    And….? What did you expect? We did vote Remain, and this could be seen as the ‘worst case scenario’ . Doesn’t Spain for example put the ‘worst case scenario’ whenever it presents cases to the EU for subsidies? We are not asking for ‘subsidies’ what we do want is to be in the best possible light to be taken into consideration in negotiations when and if Brexit becomes a reality and the United Kingdom takes us with her out of the EU. If we said everything is fine and dandy it would be an ‘alternative fact’ a phrase now made famous in the Trump administration. What is not al ‘alternative fact’ is that Gibraltar has faced many challenges in the past, and has come out better than it was before. So no sweat there. But I wouldn’t be ringing any bells just yet, we are still in the EU and the British Parliament is stirring against Brexit. So sit back and have a

  5. In my humble opinion the recovery of Gibraltar is an issue of very secondary importance for Spain, but we must not forget that is an political issue, and that is linked with a crucial aspect of the existence of every state, the territory.

    So is irrelevant to speak about economical aspects, or to work places.

    I think that for the spanish mentality would be innoble to exert some type of pressure taking advantage of the temporal weakness of UK by the Brexit. A differnt question is about shut (in an gradual way and with all the limitations imposed by humanitary issues) of the gate of the colony according with the Utrech treaty, after thatUK will leave the UE.

  6. Oh dear. The eternal threat masters. Think on it, in the 1960’s Franco thought himself the king of his Cortijo, with the Americans finally acquiescing after his nefarious overtures to the Nazi Regime because they wanted UN Bases in Spain and dollars were rolling in as well as jobs. Closing thec Frontier with Gibraltar then was hardly any problem for him as it served him as a distraction from the civil unrest at the time with students revolting and the Miners in Asturias. It was easier for him to find work all over Spain for those who list their livelihood in Gibraltar. Today, with Trump at the helm in America and his ‘America First’ , his seeming reluctance to engage in world defencevunless everyone chips in, including Spain, , and his protectionism on foreign imports, it could be that finding work for the 12,000 now working in Gibraltar would not be such a good idea seeing the state of the job market in the country, plus the many more that could be arriving back from UK after Brexit etc…completely different scenario to then.

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