Gibraltar and the EU



It was reassuring to hear Picardo say he respects the EU, respects and understands European law and wishes to interface with it, looking at options which “satisfy all parties” in the application and interpretation of EU law.

He was clear though that there must be no contamination by rules and regulations that are irrelevant to our situation, arguing that for the purposes of immigration and the movement of goods envisaged, a lawful and effective Dispute Resolution Mechanism that does not unnecessarily restrain our commercial flexibility -- one of our great assets can be formulated by agreement. There would be regard to the decisions of the ECJ but in a manner which is not excessive or disproportionate.
In any event Gibraltar will not have to apply a substantial body of EU law or require continuous referrals to Luxembourg, as there is no risk to the integrity of the European Single Market which Brussels understandably wishes to protect. Our economy and volume of business in relation to it is so small, that we pose no threat of distortion. We are not a manufacturing base, and our economic model has never been that of a springboard for exporting goods into the EU, part of the sensitivities surrounding the Northern Ireland accord.
Ideologically ingrained British Euroscepticism is far removed from Gibraltar’s primary instincts, fundamental interests and material economic needs. Yet even they can be flexible and enlightened when it comes to defending their own patch. The UK’s real politik approach, notwithstanding the zeal for pure sovereignty at the heart of Brexit, is reflected in the presence of French gendarme boots on the ground at London’s King’s Cross train station to grant advance clearance to Paris bound travellers via the Channel Tunnel.
Picardo rebutted the notion that Frontex arrangements envisaged for Gibraltar as part of the EU-UK Treaty provisions would constitute a breach of sovereignty, stating that it would not differ substantially from the above, and in the process scything down GSD sensationalism on the issue in one fell swoop.
There are similar examples in German and Dutch border regions, where EU law enforcement cooperation has allowed the boots of neighbouring police forces to patrol home turf in the interests of public safety, upholding the rule of law, which is the main cornerstone of democracy, (the other being respect for private property). Such good sense should not escape our attention, or be denied to us by demagogues raising the distraction of non-existent spectres. Mr Picardo stated that the presence of Frontex would not compromise sovereignty as it is an administrative permission that would be set out in the treaty, where the UK allows something which it is able to withdraw in future in the exercise of its sovereignty.
The EU, the very concept of a united Europe is in crisis. Brexit has bred disaffection and reinvigorated Euroscepticism. Upbeat stories from Brussels are usually obscured under the weight of gravy train lore, buried beneath allegations of incompetence, a recurring narrative of unelected elites entrenched behind faceless bureaucracies deciding the fate of a continent from ivory towers in unaccountable power centres.
The UK-EU Treaty on Gibraltar could potentially reverse this, become a rare test case, a positive advert for the declining European ideal: the cross-border alliances of peoples in reciprocal arrangements to accomplish enterprises of mutual interest.
The EU can either adopt an intransigent, legalistic approach, without due regard to our economic, geographic realities and historic antecedents, or choose to apply founding principles that have long been eroded. It is an opportunity for the EU to shine by showing generosity and constructive spirit, in pursuit of a greater goal to portray the EU in the best possible light, and convey a powerful message beyond our shores.
The objective truth that Picardo has matured into the Rock’s unrivalled political leader does not mean to say that his decade at the helm of government has been a bed of roses. Like with all administrations that gain a third term, there have been lights and there have been shadows, successful and not so successful endeavours.
There will be time for post-mortems and for historical judgment in the post-Picardo era. Many things will probably have to change, that is the nature of democratic politics and succession, the nature of changes in political cycles, but that is best left for the future. Now the focus, the top political priority is getting over the line of the treaty to make sure that there is a post-Picardo era at all.