Chief Minister’s Statement on Leaving the European Union

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My dear fellow Gibraltarians,

The time has come. Tonight we face a historic rupture. For the past 47 years we have been members of the European Union. Tonight, we leave that Union.

In doing so, we are giving effect to the choice of the British people.

We are a part of the British family of nations and, as such, we are leaving the EU with the United Kingdom.

But this was not our choice in the referendum.

And so tonight, as we lower the flag of the EU, we will do so solemnly, in sadness and with a heavy heart.

We will play the EU’s Ode to Joy as a sign of friendship and respect.

Because we have enjoyed the human and economic benefits of membership of the EU.

We have prospered in the EEC, the EC and now the EU.

And we thrived even more after the EEC kicked open the frontier gates as Spain acceded to membership.

We had to fight to win the vote in Europe, but we got it. We minted the first hard ECU in the European Community.

And, ironically, we leave membership of the EU today with all relevant directives already duly transposed into our laws.

So tonight, although we are strongly and rightly confident that we will continue to prosper and thrive in the future, it is right that we should reflect our genuine sadness in leaving this imperfect Union.

Because I must also record that despite our enthusiasm for the EU, we have often felt let down and unprotected by its institutions.

And as we move forward, if the EU take a line in relation to Gibraltar which is not inclusive of us, the EU will have failed to understand why the UK is leaving.

If all the talk in relation to Gibraltar is of vetoes, then our European colleagues will not just be failing us, they will be failing themselves.

That is not the generosity of spirit and approach which this historic moment requires of us all.

But tonight, I want to warmly say goodbye to our membership of the EU.

But not goodbye to the people of Europe.

I want to reassure our European colleagues that Gibraltar continues to believe in the value and strength of the European Project.

It is a project of peace and for peace.

And we will continue to support it.

As we will continue to support the people of Europe.

But we know that our safest course is with Britain.

We know that we are more secure in partnership with the British systems and the Rule of Law that we know, trust and understand.

And we know that we will be able to reach strong agreements for the future in all key areas.

These will be mutually beneficial also for Europe and Spain if they are able to be modern, generous and cooperative in their approach.

Because this is a time to rise above perennial and historic sovereignty claims. This is a time to rise above nationalistic jingoism.
It is a time to reflect.

A time to work to secure the common prosperity and security of the people of the United Kingdom, Europe and Gibraltar.

For us, we must work to protect the frictionless fluidity of people across our frontier with Europe.

We must work to ensure first and foremost that the human and family bonds that lie across that frontier are never at risk of being severed or impeded again.

This Brexit cannot break those bonds.

It cannot endanger those bonds.

People must come before rhetoric, borders or politics.

Let me assure those who work here and cross our frontier every day that we will never wish to put any obstacles in the way of their entry into Gibraltar.

We want to continue to see them working in our economy; a key part of our success and prosperity. They, and every one of us, must have that confidence.

We want to work to make a shining reality of that rainbow of opportunities that is the potential of this blessed part of our world.

And in that way, we want to work to deliver that arc of prosperity that should touch every millimetre of the shores of the magnificent Bay of Gibraltar.

With good will and generosity on all sides, we can achieve that and more.

But we will not accept any attempt to compromise our sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over any part of our territory.

And let us also be realistic and positive about the future. There are many more nations outside the EU than in the EU.

We interface more effectively, we sell more and we are better understood in common law countries than in civil law countries like the ones in the EU.

We are already working to be included in the Future Trade Agreements which the UK will do with nations around the world, in particular those in the Commonwealth of common law nations.

We already have the benefit of two Double Taxation Agreements, something we did not have before, and we expect the number of such agreements to rise.

We have UNIQUE AND GUARANTEED access to the UK services market, in particular in financial services.

We are very well placed indeed to make a great success of the Brexit that we did not choose.

Our work to date means that our prosperity and economic growth are as assured today as they were before the decision to leave the EU.

But at a human, political and philosophical level, I know most of us will agree that tonight is tinged with sadness.

From me and from the Deputy Chief Minister and all our Cabinet colleagues, let me assure you that we will work to deliver agreements on future relations with Europe that will seek to preserve for generations to come as many as possible of the freedoms and opportunities as we have enjoyed.

To do so, we will have to work harder this year even than in the years since the referendum.

But you know that we will have the commitment, the energy and the ability to navigate the coming negotiations in a way that is economically and politically safe for you.

And in doing so, as the negotiations progress, be careful not to take at face value much or any of what you hear in the Spanish press or media.

Do not fall into the trap of allowing your views to be fixed by what you might read or hear which is designed to dupe a domestic audience.

Much will be said to seek to divide us or make you fear the progress or potential outcomes of the negotiations.

Remember: that is the oldest trick in the book for a negotiating opponent.

But understand that as we enter this phase of the negotiations as part of the UK family, we will be as open as possible with you at every stage, as that is our wish.

But we will not be able to give a blow by blow account of every meeting or contact.

Rest assured though, that we will only reach agreements that meet our criteria of political safety, exactly as we have done so successfully in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Remember that is what will allow life to continue tomorrow as if nothing had changed until at least the end of the year.

So tonight, let’s not pretend to be happy.
Let’s be clear that this is not our choice.
But let us also look to the future with great optimism and with the strongest confidence.

In the spirit of generations of Gibraltarians who have come before, we will secure the future of the generations of Gibraltarians to come.

 

Because, My fellow Gibraltarians, we will succeed in coming years in making Gibraltar stronger and making our children’s future brighter than our own.

Gibraltar will flourish from this day on as it has to date. Of that, there is no doubt.

Thank you for your time this momentous evening. Goodnight.

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