words | Riaan de Lange
“Make no mistake the Referendum was a vote to leave the European Union, but is was also a vote for serious change. … Brexit means Brexit. … There will be no attempts to remain within the EU.”
– Theresa Mary May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, 11 July 2016.
The rule of three
Also known as the power of three, contends that those things that come in threes tend to, amongst other, be more effective, satisfying, and inherently easier to understand than those of alternate number. Anything more than three is considered confusing, overwhelming, and an overextension. So, you should limit your attention to only three tasks. (Three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner.)
Three is an interesting number. Whilst you might know that three collective elements are a triad, you might not that a tricolon is where three words or phrases are equal in length and grammatical form. Or that, a hendiatris is a figure of speech where three successive words are used to express a single central idea. The Olympic motto, in Latin, is “citius, altius, forties“ – faster, higher, stronger. This spirit encapsulates Team GB’s performance at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. (Three classes of medals were awarded.)
Is there perfection in threes? In Latin, “omne trium perfectum” means that everything that comes in threes is perfect, or that every set of three is complete. You might well counter with “Non certe!!!” – Certainly not!!! Which might well render you mistaken.
Come to think of stories of moral substance that reference three, there is but one, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge receive visits from three spirits – The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
Democracy – Brexit en route
Although the majority of Gibraltarians had wished, possibly even prayed, for a different result, “the people have spoken” so the “people’s will should be respected”. The “people” of the UK, including Gibraltar, that is. This is the premise of democracy, which is governed by the principle, popularly understood as “majority rule”. With a 1,269,501 vote majority, in 382 voting areas, the vote to leave the European Union.
Subsequent to the Brexit referendum, you have, no doubt, read how closely contested it was with 51.9% voting to leave and 48.1% to remain, possibly, it was even imprinted in your brain. But statistics faithfully serve many a master/mistress and his/her cause. As an illustration, consider the statistics from a different angle. Of the 382 voting areas 263, or 68.85% voted to leave, and on the size of votes cast in the voting areas, Gibraltar was 377th, or in the bottom 1.31%, with 20,145 votes.
Whilst Gibraltar’s people had spoken differently than the majority of UK voters, as a British Overseas Territory (BOT), Gibraltar is part of the UK. Similarly to Gibraltar, there were 30.89% voting areas that had voted differently from the majority, but they will have no option but, with the majority’s voice, to leave the UK.
HM Government of Gibraltar, on August 15, 2016 through a press release, informed of its proposed motion to establish a Select Committee on the EU, reflecting the composition of its Parliament. The terms of reference of the Committee would no doubt be to provide Parliament with a negotiating position in its deliberations with the UK.
In any such endeavour, one would assume the Committee’s first course of action to be, to agree on the status quo – social, political and economic. (Another group of three.) There must be no dispute as to the exact details of the advantages that avail to Gibraltar through its EU membership. Although I attempted to be rigorous in identifying these advantages, I might well have missed one or two. In such instance, the correction would be appreciated.
What do we know? Gibraltar, an internally self-governing territory, is a member of the EU by virtue of Article 227(4) of the Treaty of Rome (and by virtue of Article 299(4) of the Treaty of Nice), a unique status as no other BOT is. (It is also the only colony which is an EU member, the only one which is on the European mainland.) As an EU member, it has the advantage of not being part of the EU’s Customs Union, nor of various other parts of the EU. As a consequence, it does no levy Value-added Tax (VAT), is excluded from the Common Customs Tariff (and the Common Agricultural Policy) imposes its own customs duties and excise duties. (It effectively has a “hard border” with Spain.) Its taxes are lower than in the EU. It is also a part of the European Economic Area (EEA), established on 01 January 1994, by virtue of the UK Treaty of Accession, which provides for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the European Single Market. As an EU and EEA member, entities established in Gibraltar can take advantage of European rules and are able to provide its services or operate throughout the member states. It enjoys passporting rights into the member states with respect to investment services, insurance and banking. Additionally, Gibraltar entities are able to provide services within the EU which are not regulated by relevant directives, provided they comply with the laws of that member state.
Gibraltar’s challenge is to define its Brexit negotiating position, with the preservation of its exceptional advantages.
Gibraltar’s three choices – scenarios
What choices does Gibraltar have? Let me just clarify, it’s the choices of Gibraltar, not that of the UK. If you are interested to learn more about the choices available to the UK visit www.cebglobal.com – a best practice insight and technology company – which offers four, namely (i) The UK becomes part of the European Economic Area (EEA), (ii) The UK enters into a bilateral integration treaty with the EU, (iii) A tariff-free trade agreement between the UK and the EU, and (iv) The UK makes no access agreements and trades with the EU as a third country.
Borrowing from Charles Dickens, and in the spirit (no pun intended) of scenario planning, Gibraltar has three Brexit ghosts.
The Ghost of Present
Leave with Britain, but rewritten
The Ghost of Past
Remain, but with Spain
The Ghost of yet to Come
Gain independence, with ascendance
These are the three distinct choices, although there might well be hybrids of the three, but the three choices cognisant of the immortal words of Albert Einstein “Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler.”
The Ghost of Present – Maintaining Gibraltar’s EU preferences within the UK, and within an agreement with the EU. The Ghost of Past – In the spirit of “out of the box thinking” what about a dispensation similar to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, an autonomous territory? The Ghost of yet to Come – Being the master of its own destiny and doing so independently.
Although the date on which Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be triggered is still unknown, it is a fait accompli, as is the fact that Gibraltar would be a party to a new agreement.
Whatever you do, keep your spirits up, pun intended. Who knows, you might yet find your genie, which no doubt too would grant you three wishes.
Wishing the Select Committee on the EU well with their endeavours. They might do well in heeding Vanilla Ice‘s hendiatris – stop, collaborate and listen.
Disclaimer: The intention of this article is not to offend, but to challenge you to look at things differently. I am reminded of the immortal words of Thomas Paine “He who dares not offend cannot be honest.”