A firm indication that Gibraltar is on the way out from the European Union emerged in the Gibraltar Parliament yesterday when the Deputy Chief Minister moved a Bill to repeal our European Communities Act on the day the United Kingdom and Gibraltar leave the European Union. 

"It ends the supremacy of European Union (EU) law in Gibraltar," said Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia who moved the 123-page Bill.

It converts EU law as it stands at the moment of exit into domestic Gibraltar legislation.

It also creates the power to make subsidiary legislation to enable corrections to be made to those laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once we leave the European Union.

This will allow our domestic legal system to continue to function correctly outside the EU.

Dr Garcia told Parliament: "In presenting this Bill to Parliament on behalf of the Government I do so with mixed feelings.

"In the first instance, as an avowed pro-European, this is obviously the cause of considerable personal and political pain.

"I still recall when my honourable friend the Chief Minister and I first travelled together to Brussels to visit the European institutions. This was at a time when he was still a student and when neither of us were in this House.

"That visit sowed the seeds for the policy of taking Gibraltar closer to Europe and bringing Europe closer to Gibraltar.

"Who would have said, that following a well-known chain of events, we now find ourselves taking Gibraltar out of the European Union instead".

"Europe has had a profound effect on all our lives in one way or another," he added. "It has shaped the Gibraltar that we know today. It has dominated the legislative agenda of this Parliament. It has placed the EU stamp on our passports, our identity cards, our health cards, our driving licences and other documents.

Everyone in Gibraltar will have been impacted by the EU in one way or another.

"It is no surprise that the complexity of the process that we embark upon today has rightly been described as trying to remove the egg from a cake after baking it.

"Part of the cake that will be undone covers elections to the European Parliament. We legislated last year to remove the legal trigger which stipulated the commencement of a canvas for a register for European elections.Our departure from the EU at the end of March means that no more UK MEPs will be elected.We will lose an important voice in the European Parliament. Those six MEPs for the Combined Region of the South West and Gibraltar had helped to raise our profile."

He recalled that together with the United Kingdom and on the back of hundreds of complaints from EU nationals, we embarrassed the European Commission into making inspection visits to the Gibraltar-Spain frontier for the first time. "After many years in this business, my view is that Gibraltar had slowly started to turn the tide."

In the wider scheme of things, it was all going in the right political direction. And then, seventeen million voters in the United Kingdom decided that their future, and ours, lay outside the European Union.

"I said in my opening remarks that I stand here today with mixed feelings. This is because the European Union is far from perfect. There are well known instances where the European institutions have let Gibraltar down. All of them. The Court, the Commission, the Council and the Parliament," said Dr Garcia, pointing out that it started when Spain joined the European Community in 1986.

The Commission often abandoned its role as the guardian of the treaties when it came to Gibraltar.

They have looked the other way instead of applying EU law to a territory of the Union and to citizens of the Union here.

"Our rights have had to be fought for every inch of the way.Both at a political level and in court.

"More recently, the inclusion of Clause 24 in the negotiating guidelines of the Council came as an underhand blow to a country that had voted 96% to remain in the EU.

"It was a slap the face to thousands of enthusiastic Europeans in this small corner of the European Union.

"So, the EU has let us down. They have allowed Spain to abuse its position as they sought to advance their anachronistic claim to our sovereignty."

Looking forward, the UK is the Member State that is leaving and Spain is the Member State that remains. We all know what this will mean, he added. In spite of all this, we also know where the best interests of Gibraltar would lie.

The Chief Minister has already said that the best outcome for us would have been for the UK to revoke the Article 50 notice.

The consequence of that would have been that the United Kingdom and Gibraltar remain in the European Union with our existing terms of membership.

Effectively, we would turn the clock back to before the 2016 Referendum and continue from where we had left off. Almost as if we have woken up from a bad dream.

But the vote was to leave and we have to work towards an orderly, a sensible and a well-managed Brexit. It is impossible to say what will happen next.

The votes in the House of Commons on Tuesday night have swung the pendulum back in the direction of the Withdrawal Agreement.

We do know that we have to prepare for every eventuality. That is why this EU Withdrawal Bill comes before this Parliament.

This legislation will apply whether we leave the European Union with a Withdrawal Agreement in place or whether there is a no deal Brexit.

As a general rule, the same legal framework will apply on the day after exit as applied the day before.

This means, to recap, that the Bill performs three main functions-

• It repeals the European Communities Act;

• It converts EU law as it stands at the moment of exit into domestic law before the UK leaves the EU; and

• And it creates powers to make subsidiary legislation to enable corrections to be made to the laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once Gibraltar has left the EU.