DESPITE the negative impact of Brexit, Gibraltar has the tools to succeed, said a business leader.
James Lasry, chairperson of the Gibraltar Funds and Investment Association, believes the only danger could be a Spanish veto in transition talks.
“Brexit has been difficult on the finance industry in Gibraltar,” Lasry told the Olive Press.
“Some companies, particularly asset management firms, have indeed left Gibraltar and some have restructured, thus minimising their Gibraltar footprint.
“However, by and large, the industry has been responsible and positive in trying to look for new opportunities.”
Lasry is still in disbelief at how the mechanics of a Brexit referendum had somehow allowed a ‘Leave’ to emerge.
“I can’t say I am content with the way the process has gone in general,” said the amicable New Yorker.
“The fact is we are going ahead with it while there are 2.3 million voters who have voted for it who are no longer living and there are 2.8 million voters now entitled to vote who are natural Remainers.
“Having said this, I believe the Government of Gibraltar has done an extraordinary job in keeping us as close to the UK as possible.”
A positive aspect is the arrival of Fintech and Blockchain companies as evidence of Gibraltar’s ability to adapt to emerging markets.
Lasry has been against Brexit from the beginning, like 96% of Gibraltar, but he gave the authorities full marks for what it has done since the June 2016 referendum.
“The Government of Gibraltar is doing an extraordinary job in a difficult situation,” said Lasry.
“The right of passporting to the UK is very helpful indeed particularly since we are the only other jurisdiction with this privilege.
“It remains on the service providers to actively seek out opportunities in order to put this right to use.”
Even though he thinks the deal signed with the UK could bring new business to the Rock, he is fearful of political strife.
“Any agreement between the UK and the EU will be subject to the Spanish veto,” said the Hassans partner.
“We will have to work very hard to convince Spain not to exercise this.”
However, the GFIA chairman is upbeat about the attitude of the new Spanish government.
“Although the sovereignty argument will always be an important issue in the minds and hearts of our neighbours, the discussion has been successfully reframed in order to deal with other issues as well,” he said.
“There are almost 15,000 people who come into Gibraltar to work every day from Spain.
“In the past, Madrid could have ignored these people for their own political gain but in today’s world of social media, I think it is unlikely that they would be able to discount this issue entirely.”
Although he hopes EU passporting rights might be kept in the Future Trading Agreement, he would be ‘surprised’ if that were the case.
Lasry’s role as AmCham president in Gibraltar could also prove crucial as the Rock opens to new markets like the USA.