Gibraltar welcomes Brexit deal as ‘far better than crashing out with no-deal’

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo was among the few politicians to welcome Theresa May's deal with the European Union stating that it “worked from the point of view of Gibraltar”.

Gibraltar welcomes Brexit deal as 'far better than crashing out with no-deal’
Gibraltar, the tiny territory at Spain's southern tip has much to lose in a no deal Brexit. Photo: AFP

“I am satisfied that the aspects of the proposed Withdrawal Agreement which relate to Gibraltar work for Gibraltar,” he said on Thursday  morning hours after the agreement was approved by Theresa May’s cabinet.

“This Protocol contains absolutely no concessions on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control. We would not have accepted it if it had. There are no issues of bilateralism that can cause any concern,” he said in a statement issued from Number 6 Convent Place on Thursday morning.

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“There are no matters which in any way challenge our fundamental positions on any keys issues,” he said, adding that a full statement would be made next week after “every part of the Protocol and its effect on Gibraltar can be properly analysed and understood.”

The statement from his office said that “the Gibraltar Government is of the view that the deal that has been concluded is far better for Gibraltar than crashing out of the European Union in four months time without an agreement.”

Mr Picardo had been actively involved in negotiations where they involved Gibraltar and welcomed the deal on the table.

“It means that Gibraltar will not crash out of the European Union in March 2019 and that things will largely remain as they are until the end of 2020. This period will allow for the negotiation of the future relationship with the European Union which would be expected to apply after the end of the transition,” the statement said.

However, Mr Picardo admitted that if the UK Parliament voted down the agreement and left no alternative but a “no deal” things could get bad for Gibraltar, where 96 percent voted to remain in the EU.

“A no deal would be very bad indeed for Gibraltar,” Mr Picardo said outside the Cabinet Office in Whitehall on Wednesday night, according to the Gibraltar Chronicle.

“Anyone who genuinely cares for Gibraltar will want to see a deal as important as this is for Gibraltar to prosper,” he said.

In April 2017 the EU agreed to give Spain the right to veto any future post-Brexit relationship between the 27-member bloc and Gibraltar.

The tiny rocky outcrop of Gibraltar, home to some 32,000 people on Spain's southern tip, has long been the subject of an acrimonious sovereignty row between London and Madrid, which wants Gibraltar back after it was ceded to Britain in 1713.

Spain has nevertheless tried to reassure the territory's inhabitants that it will put the issue of sovereignty aside and won't use the negotiations over Gibraltar to try to get the territory back or to make their lives more complicated.

But fears remain that Gibraltar and the cross frontier economy that spills into the neighbouring town of La Linea will be detrimentally affected by Brexit.

READ MORE: Brexit dims outlook for both sides of Spain-Gibraltar border


Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.