*Picardo says, Gibexit treaty will be good, no agreement will put us “at the door of an abyss”
*1969 economic and social siege was survived with UK help
*UK help will not be generous today to reverse a badly affected economy
*Ease of crossing to Spain will become as difficult as for Blue cardholders


“We are at the point of something very great, very positive, and historically important, or at the doors of an abyss almost as negative as that of the year 1969.” Yes, nothing less than “at the doors of an abyss” as negative as was the closure of the frontier in 1969.

Those are the words last Friday of GSLP-Liberal Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, in a statement when politely declining an invitation to a Brexit seminar in Algeciras, organised by the University of Cadiz. His refusal was due, he said, to the sensitive stage at which the Gibexit negotiations stood between the UK and the EU.


Such words from Mr. Picardo are not the best negotiating ploy for any party engaged in those important negotiations to utter, except if negotiations are essentially completed with a positive outcome waiting to be announced. That is not where we are, says Mr. Picardo, although the messages of expected success in the talks are very optimistic.

They are words which could be seen to be aimed at selling to voters a ‘deal’ that is already negotiated, not words which allow for a negotiation from a position of strength.

Until Mr. Picardo spoke those words, he has always maintained a negotiating position of strength, which is that Gibraltar is ready and able to move forward positively, were ‘no deal’ to be the outcome of the Gibexit negotiation. Although details of that plan have never been revealed by the Government.

1969 AND NOW

When Spain closed the frontier, Gibraltar faced a social and economic siege, with a need to source basic requirements, including food. It turned towards Morocco and the UK. Its basic needs were met through the sustained communications with both those countries by sea and by air.

The support that Gibraltar received from the UK in those days was huge. Aid and Defence spending by the UK sustained 80% of the economy, and employed huge numbers, until the closure of the Naval Dockyard, when the economic downturn began to be felt. It was the opening of the border which came to the rescue.


Those days of UK ‘support and sustain’ are over, Defence expenditure today meets only about 10% of our economic needs. The increase of that to meet a newly hugely difficult frontier with Spain would need to be massive.

Reality points to such huge support not being forthcoming from the UK, which itself has cities and areas of its geography needing financial help and support, and getting very little.

Additionally, the food storage facilities, including cold storage, that were available in 1969, are more than gone.

How and where will those be recovered to meet the increased demand that exists today when compared with 1969? Storage that would become essential, if reliance is to be placed on supplies from Morocco and the UK once again.


All that said, in part, the level of support from the UK will depend on who walks away from the Gibexit negotiating table, the UK or Gibraltar. The indications are that it will not be the EU, for now.

If it is the UK, the moral argument for greater ‘support and sustain’ will be magnified. But any support will likely not be enough to sustain the level at which we have become accustomed to today, nor allow for the mortgage and loan obligations assumed by so many families to be met by all.


There are some elected politicians who point to the gaming and finance industries as potential saviours. Yes, those will provide some cushion, but they will not replace the losses.

Additionally, they depend, to a noticeable degree, on cross-border workers, who will face difficulties at the border, unless they are EU citizens and Gibraltar allows free passage, whilst none is available to residents and citizens of Gibraltar.

Those cross-border workers support and sustain businesses here, and the economy of the neighbouring Campo de Gibraltar, through rentals, municipal charges, and general spending. Accordingly, the loss to the Campo de Gibraltar in the case of ‘no deal’ could likely be very marked also.


The ease of access into Spain using a Red ID Card is a wonderful concession that all such cardholders benefit from, but it is a unilateral concession from Spain. It is not a right that those cardholders have under EU law.

Today we are told that the Government has made loud and strong arguments for that same privilege to be extended to Blue cardholders, but without success. Those without Red ID Cards are having the Schengen border rules applied to them. They are asked for written proof of the reason for travelling into Schengen, date of return and evidence of accommodation and of sufficient funds.

Mr. Picardo has warned in Parliament that the privileged enjoyed by holders of Red ID Card may come to an end should a Gibexit ‘deal’ not be agreed. He said, “The reality is … that we favourably finish these negotiations, or we will all … get the same treatment that Blue [cardholders] are getting at the moment”.

‘Mas claro agua’, as we say here.