Krystle Robba won the Miss Gibraltar title in 2008. (Photo: Getty)
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A thing of beauty – a joy forever?

Gibraltar will play host to the annual Miss Gibraltar pageant next month, for the 51st consecutive year. We look at the history of – and perceptions of – the beauty pageant.

Early next month Gibraltar will hold the Miss Gibraltar contest for the 51st consecutive year. The first contest was actually in the late 1950s but there were a few years in which it didn’t happen; it resumed again in 1964.

Within years, and well within living memory, the whole idea of a beauty pageant was steeped in controversy as feminist activists took action against the Miss America competition in 1968. On this occasion around 400 feminists backed by civil rights campaigners threw mops, false eyelashes and other traditional “female” accessories into trash cans and unfurled a “women’s liberation” banner at the competition, effectively launching the Women’s Lib movement.

A protest at the Miss World competition followed in 1970 and during the 1980s the BBC withdrew its coverage of that event as mainstream television. Historian Mary Beard wrote an article from the BBC about how the event had tried to go upmarket in 2011, commenting that TV had perpetrated worse crimes since the 1970s and noting that the entrants were educated and intelligent, but it was faint praise. Smaller pageants still thrive; in 2010 the Miss London University drew protests, but Miss World, albeit in an un-televised form, still exists today.

The appeal of pageants could well be fading. A quick Google confirms that last year only nine women had signed up; this year the first ten scooped a bounty of £400 as an incentive. Entry criteria is strict; people rightly have to be adults, over 17 on 3 July, but they can’t be old and 25 – if you have a 25th birthday before 31 December this year you’re over the hill.

The controversy over the nature of this sort of event is unlikely to go away. A recent article in the Australian Daily Telegraph suggested that the inclusion of questions to participants about climate change and world hunger didn’t so much bring the competitions up to date as underline that they belonged in the 1950s. This article in the New Statesman points to one mother entering her daughter into a children’s pageant before she was out of the womb, and makes numerous points about winning these competitions being about fighting against the ravages of time – a fight we’re all going to lose, if people hadn’t noticed. Inevitably there are pornographic versions of pageants around in the murkier recesses of the Web, but that industry parodies pretty much anything. Back in the real world, this year’s Brazillian “Miss Amazon” ended in disarray as the runner-up tore the winner’s crown off and threw it into the crowd.

Then again there have been pageants for inmates in prison (in Baja California State Prison) as part of the rehabilitation programme. The idea is to build self-esteem; no doubt there are questions to be debated about the sort of self-esteem a beauty-only event promotes, but it’s having an effect. This month the Miss Kenya kicked off the Miss Earth pageant which is an event built around a tree planting campaign with a target of 10 million new trees, and closer to home in the UK Desperate Scousewives star Debbie O’Toole uses her entry into beauty contests as an opportunity to model her own fashion label and build her business. Constructive stuff appears to be happening around beauty pageants when people approach them imaginatively. In Tennessee there are claims that their own pageant is more about scholarships than beauty; the aforementioned piece in the Australian Daily Telegraph notes, however, that they always seem to be won by someone young and slim.

For the moment the events are here to stay. Miss Gibraltar will be crowned and given her prizes of £2,000 cash and a £3,500 clothing allowance, plus the right to enter the Miss World competition, at the Alameda Open Air Theatre on 4 July.

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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Gibraltar - impact of Brexit

Last week our editor took a general overview of some of the scenarios for Gibraltar if Britain were to leave the Euro. This week, as the atmosphere in the British Conservative Party becomes ever more toxic, Michael Castiel, partner at Hassans lawyers on the Rock, goes into more detail (this piece written before the Iain Duncan Smith resignation and subsequent arguments happened).

However unlikely it may prove, the prospect of Britain's withdrawal from the EU sends shivers through Gibraltar's financial services, gaming and tourism industries, which are at the core of Gibraltar’s economy. For, if Britain leaves the EU, Gibraltar goes too, and, should Brexit occur, it is Gibraltar’s relationship with the UK that as in the past, largely will shape Gibraltar's future.

Gibraltar joined the European Union in 1973 as part of the UK. While rights to freedom of services across borders of EU member states apply between Gibraltar and the rest of the EU, because Gibraltar is not a separate member state (and is in fact part of the UK Member State) those rights do not apply between Gibraltar and the UK. Instead a bilateral agreement, formalised almost two decades ago, gives Gibraltar's financial service companies the equivalent EU passporting rights into the UK. Accordingly and pursuant to such agreement, where EU rights in banking, insurance and other financial services are concerned, the UK treats Gibraltar as if it is a separate member state.

This reliance on the special relationship with the UK is recognised by both the Government and the Opposition in Gibraltar, and when the territory (which in this instance as part of the UK electorate) goes to the polls on 23 June, the vote to remain in the EU is likely to be overwhelming. This may have symbolic significance but realistically seems unlikely to influence the outcome. In actual terms, although some non-EU jurisdictions use Gibraltar and its EU passporting rights as a stepping stone into Europe, almost 80% of Gibraltar’s business dealings are with the UK.

But whether or not Britain maintains the 'special relationship' with Gibraltar, if Brexit becomes a reality, other factors will come into play, with the ever-present Spanish Government’s historic sovereignty claim over Gibraltar topping the list.

Recently Spain's caretaker Foreign Minister Jose Maria Margallo went on record that if the UK voted to leave the EU he would immediately 'raise with the UK the question of Gibraltar.' If this was to come about it could take one or more of several different forms, ranging from a complete closure of the border between Spain and Gibraltar, demanding that Gibraltar passport-holders obtain costly visas to visit or transit Spain, imposing more stringent border controls, or a frontier toll on motorists driving into or out of Gibraltar. The latter idea was in fact floated by the Spanish Government three years ago, but dropped when the EU Commission indicated that any such toll would contravene EU law.

Here, again, imponderables come into play, for much will depend on which political parties will form the next Spanish government. A Spanish government headed by the right wing PP party is likely to take a less accommodating attitude towards Gibraltar (the Foreign Minister having recently indicated that in case of Brexit the Spanish Government may opportunistically push once again for a joint sovereignty deal with the UK over Gibraltar) whereas a left of centre coalition will likely adopt a more pragmatic and cooperative relationship with Gibraltar in the event of EU exit.

The most significant changes to Gibraltar's post-Brexit operation as an international finance centre are likely to be in the sphere of tax, and while Gibraltar has always met its obligations in relation to the relevant EU rules and Directives, it has also been slightly uncomfortable with aspects of the EU's moves towards harmonisation of corporate taxes across member states.

Although it was formed as a free market alliance, since its inception fiscal matters have been at the root of the EU, but Gibraltar's 'special relationship' with Britain has allowed considerable latitude in relation to what taxes it imposes or those it doesn't. However, as is the case with other member states, Gibraltar has increasingly found in recent years its fiscal sovereignty eroded and its latitude on tax matters severely curtailed.

As in Britain, Gibraltar has benefitted from several EU Directives introduced to harmonise and support the freedom of establishment, particularly the Parent-Subsidiary Directive which prohibits withholding taxes on cross-border intra-group interest dividend and royalty payments made within the EU.

As a stepping stone for foreign direct investment, should Brexit come about EU subsidiaries could no longer rely on these Directives to allow tax-free dividend or interest payments to their holding companies based in Gibraltar. In the case of the UK, bilateral double tax treaties will no doubt mitigate the impact of the non-application of any tax related Directives. Gibraltar, however, is not currently a party to any bilateral double tax treaties. Accordingly, Gibraltar would either have to seek from the UK the extension of all or some of the UK’s bilateral tax treaties to Gibraltar (subject of course to the agreement by the relevant counterparties) or it would need to negotiate its own network of bilateral double tax treaties with a whole series of EU and non EU Member States. To say the least, neither of these options would be straightforward to implement at short notice and would need the wholehearted support of the British Government

Whilst Gibraltar’s economy is likely to be adversely affected should Brexit occur, there may be some potential benefits. An EU exit would result in fewer regulations and possibly may provide Gibraltar with greater exposure to emerging economies.

From a tax perspective, an EU exit would probably enable Gibraltar to introduce tax rules and incentives that are contrary to EU tax laws and would provide the Gibraltar Government more freedom to adopt competitive tax regimes that may be considered contrary to EU state aid rules. How possible or effective any such strategy would be is doubtful given the OECD driven anti-tax avoidance climate affecting all reputable jurisdictions whether within or outside the EU.

In this as well as other possible change much will hinge on any post-Brexit relationship with the UK - an issue which the Gibraltar Government addressed recently in a paper sent to Westminster's Foreign Affairs Committee. It stressed not only that 'EU membership has been an important factor in the development of Gibraltar’s economy' but also the importance of 'clarity as to the rights the British Government will protect and defend for Gibraltar in the context of its own negotiations.'