Since 2010 I have had the privilege and honour to represent Gibraltar in the European Parliament in Brussels as part of the SW England constituency. During that time I have taken a close and keen interest in its welfare and security. Most recently I was on the Rock for its National Day celebrated annually on 10 September.
It is 300 years since Gibraltar became a British colony and it is now a British Overseas Territory.
It is interesting to note that most of the Gibraltarians I have met do not look at the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht as their surety, but at later treaties confirming its relations with the UK such as the Treaty of Seville in 1729 in which the Treaty of Utrecht’s provisions banning residence for Muslims and Jews from Gibraltar, mostly traders. This measure was inserted at the insistence of the Spanish authorities and subsequently was removed. British Gibraltar has always been welcoming and open to business from wherever it may originate.
Key to Gibraltar’s success has been the stability of parliamentary democracy, running its own internal affairs, which is backed by Britain internationally. Its legal system is based on English law.
The English language dominates and the standard of education is high. Gibraltar is thus one of the world’s most favoured places to do business. All this despite being one of the world’s smallest countries, just 6.5 square miles in size with around 29,500 people living there, though no doubt its balmy Mediterranean climate has helped.
The Gibraltarian people have shown steadfastness, courage and determination to run their own affairs as they see fit. They have demonstrated that overwhelmingly at the ballot box in two referendums. Where else in the free world would we find such high turnouts, close to the whole voting population, as well as unanimity?
That determination and certainty of purpose has applied equally to doing business. GDP per capita is staggeringly high, currently about number 17 in the world, unemployment is minimal, and the government is running a record budget surplus. It is very attractive to overseas investors.
At one time, Gibraltar relied heavily on the British armed forces, especially the Royal Navy, for its income. Today, that is no longer the case. Military income has been largely replaced with a wide range of busi- ness interests from tourism, to financial series, shipping, telecommunications, e-commerce and e-gaming. This is a selfsufficient 21st-century economy. It is a great credit to the government and people of Gibraltar.
Furthermore, Gibraltar provides work for many Spanish people from just across the border in Cadiz province, which forms part of Andalusia. How tragic, therefore, that the Spanish government is rejecting the hand that helps to feed it and is sniping at the freedoms, jobs and income Gibraltar offers. Andalusia, and Cadiz in particular, is one of the most depressed parts of Europe with entrenched unemployment now at about 35 per cent. That should provide an abundance of workers for Gibraltar’s vibrant economy.
One of Gibraltar’s proudest boasts is that the British territory, alone among the countries of the European Union, is 100 per cent compliant with all relevant laws, including of course banking and financial transparency rules. It is also listed as fully compliant by the OECD, ensuring that it is a good, legal and entirely safe place to do business. It is also great fun.
It is more than time that the Spanish government saw sense and stopped its trivial sneering at the small British territory in order to distract the rest of the world from Spain’s serious internal problems.
by William Dartmouth MEP