Is the Rock still at risk from Brexit?

Published:  30 Oct at 6 PM
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Is the Gibraltar dilemma really sorted?

Most expat residents on Gibraltar and the Spanish workers who travel across the border daily may be feeling more secure since the news broke about a Brexit deal, but are they celebrating too soon? It’s good that the move is in the positive direction, thus easing fears of a Spanish takeover, but the Rock is a still a small piece of the complicated jigsaw of the Brexit negotiations. The entire two years of talks have been conducted on the basis of ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’, and a final deal is still a good distance from the finishing post.

In a nutshell, a no-deal Brexit is still on the cards, and Gibraltar is still at risk. The reality is that some parts of the agreement have been settled, but some haven’t, including fundamentals such as free movement of labour, tobacco tax and the overall control of the Rock’s airport. Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez has been quoted as saying the Gibraltar issue is no longer problematic, but the Rock’s chief minister is hesitating to applaud, saying a ‘fairly final protocol’ had been agreed – whatever that means. In the case of a no-deal exit, it means Gibraltar doesn’t have a protocol and is in serious trouble as a result.

British expats living and working in Gibraltar are especially vulnerable as regards pensions, transfer of capital and especially healthcare issues as many UK expats are in retirement. Across southern Europe and especially in Spain, it’s finally being realised that Brexit, however it ends, is a major disaster not only for the UK but also for many EU member states. For example, Andalusia has the most to be concerned about as the loss of British tourists means a loss of revenue, although it’s not expected to last for ever.

However, it’s not that straightforward, as the region also has fears about loss of foreign investment, trade and agriculture. One major concern is the shrinking of the agricultural subsidy once the UK isn’t paying in, with cuts of 190 million euros being bandied about. Ireland is also likely to be affected in a similar way, although Brits who voted to leave might consider it’s rough justice coming home to roost, as the Irish border question is the most likely spur for a no-deal Brexit.

It’s becoming clearer by the month that the EU will be affected in ways not realised during the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. Andalusia has urged the EU to provide a fund aimed at mitigating Brexit’s worst economic effects and expats all over Europe are being advised to sort out their financial affairs, but surely the easiest way to negate every threat is to admit the Brexit referendum was simply ‘advisory’ and consign it to the dustbin of history.
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