*Table-top exercise on Gibexit ‘no deal’ consequences but no advice to citizens or businesses
*Gravity of ‘no deal’ outcome demonstrated by holding a table-top exercise
*Aim was to test government planning
*Optimism reigns amongst all so ‘no deal’ is a difficult conclusion
*Dr Joseph Garcia says ‘no deal’ remains “a very real” possibility
*Some Gibexit unexplained consequences cannot be alleviated
*Panic needs to be avoided now but not made worse on ‘no deal’ being announced
*Government ‘no deal’ booklet needs to be summarised into absorbable length
*Sir Joseph Bossano predicts a ‘deal’ is short term for four years
*Four-year review is a mistake
GRAVE EFFECTS EXPECTED?
Not a word to residents of Gibraltar about any consequences or arrangements for a Gibexit ‘no deal’ scenario, as discussed in a table-top exercise carried out yesterday (30th November 2022). The exercise indicates that the expected consequences of a ‘no deal’ happening must be considered grave. Yet we all wait and see in the dark although it is each of us who will be affected.
The gravity of that outcome is demonstrated by the exercise having been held at all. Further, that it involved no less than 19 Gibraltar government departments and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Ministry of Defence people from the UK.
The aim of the event was to test government planning for a ‘no deal’ outcome to ongoing Gibexit negotiations between the UK and the EU to reach a treaty governing Gibraltar’s EU exit following Brexit.
GOOD PROGRESS IN GIBEXIT NEGOTIATION
Both sides of the Gibexit negotiations, and Gibraltar and Spain, however, all continue to express optimisms that a Gibexit treaty will be reached. All continue to emphasise that a ‘no deal’ is simply not wanted. Recent public statements all point to a ‘deal’ being agreed. Those sentiments best come across from the British and Gibraltar sides.
Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation’s [GBC] news editor, Christine Vasquez, writes in the Gibraltar Chronicle that “A key player in the negotiations, the British Ambassador to Madrid, Hugh Elliot, was not even contemplating a ‘no deal’ telling [her] good progress was being made and that all sides were very committed to making it work.” Her comment follows on from her having interviewed him in Madrid last week.
The Chief Minister has spoken also very optimistically following the last round of talks which concluded on Tuesday. He said on GBC that “everybody is trying to ensure that we get there… Everybody has tried their best to ensure we edge ever closer together…”
It is difficult to believe that those words and sentiments would be spoken if a ‘deal’ is not around the corner. If it is not, speaking in those terms could amount to diplomatic irresponsibility.
The UK is not known for diplomatic thoughtlessness. It is known for its huge diplomatic and foreign affairs shrewdness and judgment. It is informed, so much so that its Ambassador is in the Campo de Gibraltar now meeting all the areas representatives to assess their feelings and their view of the impact of ‘no deal’ would have on them.
‘NO DEAL’ REMAINS WHILST NO TREATY
However, Dr Joseph Garcia, the Deputy Chief Minister was keen to point out that a ‘no deal’ result was “a very real” possibility until a treaty is agreed. He is charged with planning for a ‘no deal’ outcome. It seems that Dr Garcia wants to bring many down to earth, contrary to the flow of knowledgeable opinion.
The table-top exercise lasted six hours. It modelled what would happen on the first day of ‘no deal’. It went on to forecast consequences on the thirtieth day and beyond. Nothing has been made public, so no one outside those involved in the exercise know what effect it will have on any of us.
Consequences are expected on the first days. The victims are each one of us. Yet us victims are not advised in easy terms of those consequences. Why is that? Will government overcome those difficulties? 30 days on effects are expected to continue. None of us know what those will be? Why is that?
Mr. Garcia says uncompromisingly that those areas that have the possibility of relief will be appropriately dealt with by the government, but that there are consequences that are not capable of being alleviated. So, which cannot be avoided?
Sadly, us constituents who will be affected are not told in short form what suffering will result to each of us. The secret detail is kept amongst those who attended the table-top exercise, if even they absorb the full extent of the effects.
One understands that panic needs to be avoided so care needs to be taken, but the panic will be worse if the dreaded event happens, and few know how to deal with things. In fairness a booklet is available at https://bit.ly/3rDdVzZ but it is hugely extensive and detailed. It is not easy to read with all the attached Technical Notices.
Those public officers headed by Dr Garcia should publish and circulate a bullet point summary of effects and consequences and mitigating steps that each of us may be able to take. There is no doubt that they will be downsides at every level of our society, our employment, our commerce, our healthcare, our lifestyle, our economy, our public finances, and probably more.
Even in the UK there have been adverse effects of Brexit, not least lack of staff in many areas, including the catering and leisure industries. In Gibraltar frontier crossing delays will impact on our commerce, not only through reduced consumers, but also hindrances that will be felt by those who come in to work daily.
What is clear is that the reigning optimism points only to one outcome. There will be a Gibexit ‘deal’ now. If that is the overriding certainty, then what are the needed measures to transform our ability to survive are not urgent.
There remains one primary concern. It was highlighted in Sir Joe Bossano’s recent GBC Viewpoint appearance. What does not happen now will likely happen in four years’ time. Sir Joe was adamant that any treaty will end on the expiry of four years. He suggests that a new economic model can overcome that eventuality. Many are sceptical about that.
The option for either Gibraltar or the EU to end any treaty is there at that time. It is a mistake. Once done we should all look forward to having our lives ordered by the certainty of what is agreed in a treaty, ending it revives all the problems for which solutions are difficult.