Crédit Darold Massaro.

Brexit: The fate of Gibraltar, stuck between a rock and a hard place.


Since March, the Brexit referendum has lead various British regions to rethink their relationship with England and the rest of Europe. Take the special case of Gibraltar. Even if 96% of voters were opposed to leaving the EU, their fate would still rest in the hands of London.

Gibraltar, the little British community in the south of Spain, sometimes nicknamed the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’, took part in the Brexit referendum, of which only 4% of its constituents voted to leave compared to the 52% of total British votes. The constitution is obliged to respect the result of all voters combined.

The only minister to speak out about Gibraltar since the new government last June is Robin Walker. He aimed to show reassurance to the 30,000 inhabitants who could have felt abandoned by the rest of the U.K. Moreover, he and his team are trying to convince the population that this new economy will not be a problem for them. He has stated that the specificity of the island would be taken into account when exit negotiations from the European market happen. Now that Brexit has actually been triggered, these promises will be put to the test.

Support from a central protector government

The office for Exiting the European Union held a meeting two weeks before this visit. The ministers have published their discussions online. Here are some extracts:

“We recognise that Gibraltar has particular interests, and that is why this dedicated forum is vital. It gives us the opportunity to discuss Gibraltar’s priorities and ensure their interests are taken into account.”

(Robin Walker)

“The UK is banging the drum for British businesses across a range of international markets and we are committed to taking the needs of Gibraltar and other Overseas Territories into account during this process.”

(Lord Price, International Trade Minister.)

Two distinct words from the ministers might have caused some doubt: ‘particular’ and ‘Overseas’. Even though they have always had a complicated relationship with Europe, being outside of the customs union, Gibraltar has always prospered thanks to their cross-border trade, surviving economically even when they were declared isolated. In a report, the House of Lords expressed concerns about the 40% of jobs that are dependent on Spanish border relations. The distribution of goods poses an equal amount of concern. A mutual agreement between Gibraltar, the U.K. and Spain assures that for the moment, there is to be a strong commercial relationship between them. Brexit could also affect the Andalusian economy that neighbours Gibraltar.

A community that knows its priorities

Spain, which benefits economically from Gibraltar’s situation, is looking to take part in Brexit negotiations. The relationship between Great Britain and Gibraltar is deep rooted. It has been one year since the population of Gibraltar expressed its fears of the return of a hard border with Spain, like that of before 1985. Despite all of this, it remains opposed to an eventual Spanish sovereignty. This patriotism towards the United Kingdom could force Gibraltar to have to make economic concessions.

Banner photo: Credit to Darold Massara



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