The runway at Gibraltar's airport (Shutterstock)
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Clare Moody on airspace regulation: “I will ensure Gibraltar is included”

The Labour MEP for South West England and Gibraltar reports on the European Commission’s Single European Sky II+ agreement, where Spanish “intransigence” is holding up the process 

There are many things to celebrate about Gibraltar: the thriving economy, the drive to build new social housing and the promotion of environmental protection, to name just three. I could go on about all the positive things that are happening in Gibraltar. However, as Gibraltar’s MEP I feel that I have to use this article to address the latest problems that Gibraltar is unnecessarily facing as a result of the truculent behaviour of the Spanish government.

The ongoing border issues continue to frustrate the day-to-day lives not just of Gibraltarians, but also Spanish people who depend on Gibraltar for their livelihood. Given the economic strength of Gibraltar and the current weakness of the Spanish economy, it would make sense for the Spanish government to make it easier for its citizens to take good, well paid jobs in Gibraltar. However, its priority seems to be to use Gibraltar as a political football in internal Spanish politics to the detriment of its own citizens.

On top of continuing breaches of the fundamental European Union principle of freedom of movement for workers, there are the frequent invasions of sovereign territory. Last week saw the latest of a long list when a Spanish helicopter, without displaying lights, flew over houses in Gibraltar. It is wrong in principle and in law that British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and airspace are continually abused, but it is also very dangerous. On my visits to Gibraltar and talking to Gibraltarian representatives in Brussels, the recurrent concern is that one day one of these incursions will result in serious injury or even death. Again, the Spanish government must be held to account for its illegal and irresponsible behaviour.

Finally and extraordinarily, the Spanish government attempted to exclude Gibraltar and its airport from the Single European Sky 2+ (SES2+) agreement at a meeting of European transport ministers on 3 December. These rules will coordinate airspace regulation and planning across the EU, and in effect their implementation was delayed because of Spain's intransigence about Gibraltar's sovereignty. However, there shouldn't be a dispute on this issue in the first place. The 2006 Cordoba Agreement between the British, Gibraltarian and Spanish governments specifically included the airport, and subsequently Gibraltar has fulfilled all of the requirements of the agreement.

I wrote to the Commission about this issue last month but have not received a response in time to report it in this article, despite chasing. I have also spoken with colleagues about the European Parliament's Transport Committee, working to build an alliance in an effort to avoid SES2+ being agreed without any resolution in favour of Gibraltar. It is more than a little disappointing that the Italian presidency let the Spanish government derail the agreement, turning what should have been a good news story into an unnecessary controversy. I welcome the strong words from the UK government on this issue and sincerely hope that, on this occasion at least, it will result in a positive outcome for Gibraltar. In the meantime, I will continue to do all I can as an MEP is to ensure that Gibraltar is included in SES2+, and only then can the new regulation finally be agreed.

I am looking forward to writing an article all about the many positive things that are happening in Gibraltar, and I will do so one day soon. However, frustration with both the Spanish government's actions and the snail’s pace of the Commission in enforcing Gibraltar's rights as a part of the European Union mean that that day must be postponed once again.

Clare Moody is a Labour member of the European Parliament for the South West England and Gibraltar 

Photo: Getty
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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.