GIBRALTAR - AUGUST 06: A barbary macaque monkey in the 'Upper Rock Nature Reserve' on the Rock of Gibraltar on August 6, 2013 in Gibraltar (Getty)
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Weekly round-up: politics, business and news from Gibraltar

A selection of the key headlines about politics, economics and life on the Rock this week.

  1. Gibraltar banishes troublesome monkeys [Video]

BBC reports: “The Barbary macaques are perhaps some of Gibraltar's most famous residents. However, Gibraltar is planning to banish some of the monkeys, who they say in some cases have been behaving aggressively.”

  1. Frontier queues sustained delays over last 24 hours

GBC News reports: “Gibraltar has suffered one of the most sustained episodes of delays at the border since the PP [Partido Popular] took office in 2011. Car by car checks at the frontier were carried out up until midnight Friday, and even as early as 7.30 this morning there were six lanes of traffic at the frontier loop. The Chief Minister has described Spain’s behaviour as “irrational”.”

  1. Government dismisses Spain’s ‘fanciful’ tax claims

Gibraltar Chronicle reports: “The Spanish Government’s claim that Gibraltar costs Spain one billion euros annually in lost tax revenue has “no basis in reality or fact and represent no more than a financial flight of fancy”, the Gibraltar Government said. No 6 Convent Place was responding to comments made by Spain’s Secretary of state for Europe, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, in an interview with ABC newspaper.”

  1. Gibraltar’s GCSE pass rate down five percent from last year

GBC News reports: “The overall GCSE pass rate from grades A* to C this year is 63% – a 5% drop from last year. While Westside School maintained its 2013 pass rate of 68%, Bayside School saw a 10% drop in grades A* to C. At the College, the A* to C rate in applied subjects was over 66%.”

  1. Gibraltar Government hits out at ‘sensationalist’ reporting of EU tobacco smuggling report

The Olive Press reports: “Fake TV scenes depicting tobacco smuggling in Gibraltar have been slammed by the Gibraltar Government, following the uproar over an EU report. According to the anti-fraud office OLAF’s report, tobacco smuggling on the Rock cost the EU €700 million in tax revenue between 2010 and 2013.”

  1. Gibraltar challenges internet gambling tax

Economia reports: “The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA) is preparing to legally challenge a UK gambling law, due to be introduced this December. The GBGA has filed a judicial review over the “unlawful and disproportionate” point-of-consumption tax, a 15% charge imposed on companies based on the geographical location of the gambler, rather than that of the company.”

  1. Gibraltar's First Green MEP Visits the Rock

Your Gibraltar TV reports: “Newly elected Green Party MEP for the South West and Gibraltar Molly Scott Cato today took in Gibraltar, as a constituency, for the first time, with much of her visit involving briefings on environmental issues surrounding Gibraltar, including, areas of marine conservation.”

 

 

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Gibraltar and Europe: caught in the slipstream?

The British papers are full of who has the lead in the European in or out campaigns – Guy Clapperton considers the fallout for the smaller territories

Let’s start by acknowledging that there is no clear pattern emerging in the Europe debate, as long as we understand “Europe debate” to mean whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union. This week alone we’ve seen Boris Johnson “warning Obama off” (as the BBC put it) getting involved in the debated, the same London Mayor and MP having a radio spat with Chuka Umunna involving telling each other to man up and various insults traded as either side accuses the other of scaremongering or making it up as they go along.

Divining who’s going to win is more difficult. The Daily Telegraph reports that “out” has it by a tiny margin but, crucially, the anti-Europe vote is likely to be more motivated so will actually show up on the day, expanding the margin by which it will win. Meanwhile the Times’ daily Red Box email points to Elections Etc. whose research suggests a 58% “remain” vote but with a plus or minus 14% error margin; so somewhere between 44% and 72% will go for staying in the EU. This, readers will note, tells us precisely nothing.

So the outcome, even if there weren’t 100 days in which Presidents and world leaders will offer counsel, claims and counterclaims will be made and the “leave” campaign will eventually decide who the official “leave” group actually is (there are two factions at the moment, doing the best impression of the Monty Python Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea that they can manage), we wouldn’t want to call a snap referendum even if it were to be called this afternoon.

What’s clear is that the outcome will ripple beyond the British mainland’s shores, and the ramifications of an “out” vote are already being felt on Gibraltar. Anyone doubting this should check today’s Times (subscription required), in which the Gibraltarian Chief Minister Fabian Picardo highlights recent Spanish statements about what would happen in the event of a Brexit.

Spain actually caused a few eyebrows to raise and some other people to panic just a little with its recent statements. Essentially the country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, suggested that there would be conversations on the sovereignty of Gibraltar the “day after” an announcement of a British exit, according to the Daily Mail and other reports. He also said (much, much further down the report) that he didn’t want Britain to leave: “God forbid” is the phrase he uses.

He raised the idea of joint sovereignty once again more recently, reports the Gibraltar Chronicle, this time suggesting that if Britain leaves Europe then Gib could do what it nearly did (he says) in 2002 and start transitioning towards Spain. This is an interesting definition of “nearly” when 98.48% of the electorate actually voted not to do so, but remaining British when this might exclude the Rock from Europe would inevitably raise different issues if not a different final outcome.

Outside Gibraltarian interests the effect could be more severe than that. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made no secret of her wish to make a fresh case for Scottish independence. The once-in-a-generation referendum on this was lost in 2014 but should Britain exit Europe with a majority of Scots clearly demonstrating that they want to stay in, the case becomes stronger (although the collapse of the oil price would blow the original blueprint out of the water).

So we could end up with Scotland as well as Gibraltar wanting to remain in Europe while Britain made its exit. Whether this would be legally possible if both stayed tied to Britain is untested as yet – and with Spain eager to enter talks the day after an exit is agreed but the Gibraltarians implacably opposed to becoming Spanish, the way forward would not be clear.

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.