words | Nicole Macedo
Honouring the long standing financial and political ties between Gibraltar and the city of London has until most recently been an event of epic proportions. From a lunch accommodating hundreds of financial services sector employees, to an evening of elegance, high profile schmoozing and honourable military marching. This year though, in the GSLP/ Liberal Government’s second term in office and still facing the aftermath of the Brexit vote, the dynamic for Gibraltar Day was shifted, including a smaller budget and less invitations. Somehow I managed to nab myself one of the few available, continuing my legacy as a true Gibraltar Day veteran. The change in venue intrigued me, although I was keen to get inside the well-loved Gherkin building, the Guildhall setting had always offered an air of traditional British-ness to the evening reception, with its vast ceilings and scattered paintings of military triumphs. Described as the home of ceremonialism, the courtyard’s gothic façade provided the most appropriate backdrop for the Gibraltar regiment’s annual marching display. This former Gib Day venue shares a direct link with the Rock through its flagship art piece, John Singleton Copley’s huge painting The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar. Considering all of that, I was sceptical the Gherkin would provide an equally as appropriate setting. That was until the doors of the high-speed lift opened at the 39th floor, the pinnacle of the pickle, revealing floor to ceiling three sixty views of the entire city skyline, reflected off gleaming black marbled floors and a singular lectern illuminated by an low orange glow. The dim and seductive lighting further added to the ambiance and spectacular views. The room was dotted with curious photographs of the Rock emblazoned with the hashtag #GibraltarIsOpen. The new svelte reception setting fitted the eloquent and intriguing post Brexit brand that the Government is trying to portray.
Speaking to his intimate crowd of former Gibraltar Governors and their wives, Gibraltar based business folk, UK politicians, global ambassadors, and the local press, the Chief Minister reiterated Gibraltar’s commitment to stick with Britain through the process of leaving the EU, adding, ‘We are entirely satisfied that Gibraltar is being involved in the process of Brexit. We have ensured that our “heat mapping” analysis has provided the necessary intelligence on our current interface with the EU to Downing Street, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for International Trade. It has also disclosed to us in objective statistical terms how much more important Britain and access to it is to Gibraltar than any other market. And if so pressed to choose between London, Britain and the United Kingdom on the one hand or Brussels, the European Union and the Single Market on the other, we know what our choices will be. We will choose our relationship with Britain every time.’ Apologising for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s lack of presence, Fabian Picardo instead introduced the Minister for Exiting the EU, Robin Walker who spoke of Gibraltar’s impressive feats in the world of sports this year. He further honoured our recent UNESCO World Heritage Site achievement adding that the move towards Brexit ‘does not change anything when it comes to the UK’s continued commitment to Gibraltar.’ Minister Walker added, ‘the UK is also committed to maintaining a strong armed forces presence in Gibraltar.’
Along with the low-key evening reception, the annual church service and financial services lunch were also carried out. Held at the Our Lady of Dolours Roman Catholic Church, the service draws in students and Gibraltarians based within London, in a setting that was incredibly dear to so many of their families during the Second World War, when many Gibraltarians were evacuated to London. The Guildhall based lunch is a staple of the autumn calendar for many London based financers, and instead of sending out hundreds of invites this year, firms and individuals were offered the opportunity to purchase tickets. The sell-out event saw Dr. Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade within HM Government assure lunch goers that ‘although we are leaving the EU, we will not turn our backs on Europe. This will be the start of a new and strengthened relationship with Europe.’ He went on to express, ‘our partner countries in the EU will continue to be essential to our prosperity, including Gibraltar, whose cross border commercial and societal relationships remain so important. It’s reassuring the vital and economic links between Gibraltar and the UK are already so strong, particularly within financial services.’ Commenting on the ties that have bonded London and Gibraltar, he explains that it is down to our shared ‘language, culture, friendship and economic links.’ Dr. Fox touched on the presence of so many UK companies in Gibraltar, and how it further deepens their ties.
Mr. Picardo put change in the longstanding event’s format down to a feeling that the traditional structure ‘was more about what Gibraltar had been in the past than about what Gibraltar is or what we are gearing up to be in the future.’ He further hinted that ‘there may be more yet changes on the way for next year’s Gibraltar Day in London.’ The Deputy Chief Minister spoke of the downsizing in his Budget speech this summer, during which he noted that the event had reached bursting point and was so heavily subscribed he had questioned the cost effectiveness of the mammoth three-day-long event.
Despite the shift in scale, the quality of the evening’s events was even more impressive, towering above the city in the Gherkin, reinstating the message that Gibraltar has the world at its fingertips.