Prime Minister David Cameron meets with Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo in Downing Street for talks on the border dispute with Spain (Photo: Getty)
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General Election: what they’re saying

The UK General Election is days away and although both main parties are committed to the Rock, a number of issues have surfaced in their pronouncements in recent weeks. Guy Clapperton takes the temperature.

First the good news if you’re resident in Gibraltar and want to stay British; neither Labour nor the Conservatives are making noises about being less than committed to you. Whether the new Government is Labour-led minority, Conservative-led coalition as we’ve seen for the last five years or some other hybrid as yet unimagined, Gibraltar’s status should be beyond doubt.

The parties haven’t always been so transparent. Some people will recall the then Home Secretary Jack Straw’s so-called Andorra Solution mooted in 2002, under which the UK and Spain would have had joint sovereignty; this was rejected comprehensively by a Gib referendum, and if anybody’s thinking of suggesting anything like it again, they’re not saying so out loud. Currently Labour’s funders are suggesting Gibraltarians can sleep easy, although there is no mention of it in the party’s manifesto. The Conservatives, by contrast, suggest they will protect the democratic rights of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands and encourage them to remain British for “as long as they wish”. UKIP’s manifesto is strongly in favour of other countries being urged to respect the Rock’s Britishness,

That said, some issues have emerged that could change the current status, not because of any wish to change but because of what happens outside the Rock. The first might actually strengthen Gibraltar as a British territory: if the SNP wins the expected landslide in Scotland then the moral if not constitutional case for moving trident will become unarguable. According to reports published in  the Daily Express and RT, Gibraltar is among the options under consideration should there be a move. Arguments over whether Trident should be scrapped aside (and no major party is suggesting this), it would be inconceivable to suggest Britain would be any more amenable to Spain’s entreaties to abandon the Rock if its nuclear deterrent were to be based on it.

The SNP also has a walk-on part in the second scenario that could spell change. Although the Conservative assurances of sovereignty are likely to be welcomed in the territory, the promise of an in-out referendum on Europe should the same party get a simple majority is less so (and if UKIP holds any sway then the referendum is increasingly likely).

As our article from Dominique Searle pointed out only weeks ago, Gibraltar joined the EU at the same time as the UK in the same referendum. If the UK decides to pull out in 2017 then Gibraltar comes out. Should that happen it’s almost certain to reapply or do whatever it has to do to stay in; in an article from The Trumpet in mid-April, chief minister Fabian Picardo is quoted as saying “[If] one part of the UK decides that it wants out of the European Union, then the negotiations should involve each of the separate parts being able to remain with a different degree of membership.”

Gibraltar wants to stay in the EU even if the rest of the UK left. This scenario could involve another major change as the SNP would almost certainly claim Scotland wanted to remain involved in Europe, too. There has been a great deal of speculation that if the UK did pull out this would precipitate a second referendum on Scotland’s relationship with the Union in which it might well becom independent. It’s early to be discussing the effect a break-up of the Union would have on outlying territories, but we could be looking at a European Gibraltar regarding itself as British while Britain is no longer European – and no longer the Britain it was because of the absence of Scotland. The only certainty would be uncertainty.

Within a couple of weeks, depending on the length of the horse trading, we’ll have an idea of at least the starting point for the next five years. With a hung Parliament the most likely outcome and a referendum a distinct possibility, the fact that both main parties have stated support for a British Gibraltar doesn’t leave the way as unambiguous as might have been hoped.

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.

Photo: Getty
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Morning Call: The best from Gibraltar

A selection of the best articles about politics, business and life on the Rock from the last seven days.

There will be some red eyes on the Rock this morning as politicians stayed up awaiting election results, to find eventually that the ruling party is unchanged. Yahoo! was among the first news sites with the coverage, confirming that Fabian Picardo will continue as chief minister heading up a coalition of the Socialist Labour Party and the Liberals. The Gibraltar Social Democrats, led by Daniel Feetham, won seven seats compared to the winning coalition’s ten.

Picardo won the highest number of single votes, according to GBC, followed by Joseph Garcia and Dr. John Cortes. With his 10,852 votes the chief minister won over double those of his opposite number Daniel Feetham, who had 5,054. The same report confirms that with 70.77% of the electorate choosing to vote, this is the lowest turnout for a Gibraltarian election since 1980.

There will be more on the election on our Gibraltar hub on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, life has continued as per normal on the Rock. A new money lending business has established itself, says GBC. The UK had its spending review as readers will be well aware, but details on the Rock were in short supply, said the Gibraltar Chronicle.

Most excitingly, though, it’s been revealed that “I’m A Celebrity…” star Lady Colin Campbell has links to Gibraltar. The full report is in the Olive Press, and we’d tell you more but unfortunately your editor lost the will to live half way through reading it… 

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.