Brexit would be 'disaster' for Gibraltar, warns leader

Brexit would be 'disaster' for Gibraltar, warns leader

15th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

A British vote to leave the European Union would be a "disaster" for Gibraltar, leaving the British territory open to "undemocratic" advances from Spain, its chief minister said Tuesday.

Fabian Picardo, writing in The Times, urged voters in the June 23 referendum to stay in the union so that the 6.7-square-kilometre (2.6-square-mile) territory off Spain's southern coast could continue to protect "key trade routes and British interests".

"The EU, though not perfect, makes sure there is free movement of people, services and goods. All these are critical to us in Gibraltar," he wrote.

"It would be a disaster if the border were closed."

He cited a recent British government paper that warned "if the UK left the EU, there would be no certainty that the border (with Spain) would remain open."

"The Rock has protected key trade routes and British interests for centuries. We are part of the great British family. Gibraltar will be voting to stay in the EU," said Picardo.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said earlier this month that if Britain left the European Union "the next day we will talk about Gibraltar", which is home to about 30,000 people and has been governed by Britain since 1713 but is claimed by Spain.

Picardo accused Garcia-Margallo of adding "fuel to the fire."

"Margallo has told officials privately that he would happily close the border and publicly said that he would expect a revival of the failed Blair-Aznar joint-sovereignty plan for the Rock," he wrote.

"Gibraltar, and British public opinion, defeated that undemocratic ploy with a referendum in 2002."

Polls in Britain have the "Remain" camp as slight favourites.

© 2016 AFP

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