LONDON – The chief minister of the tiny British overseas territory of Gibraltar, located on Spain’s southwestern tip, said on Thursday that his government was prepared to cooperate with neighboring countries in the European Union, including Spain, in order to ensure that business and wealth creation was not impaired by the Brexit process that is due to take the United Kingdom out of the bloc.
Fabian Picardo, who was in London meeting with UK lawmakers to discuss the potential effects of the departure from the EU, said that although Gibraltar had not voted in favor of Brexit, it was important to make it a success.
“In Gibraltar we are prepared to cooperate with our EU neighbors to create a rainbow of opportunities and wealth that can lap all the shores of the Bay of Gibraltar,” Picardo told EFE.
Around 10,000 people on the Spanish side of the bay depend on access to the territory for jobs, and Gibraltar benefits from a larger workforce than can inhabit its small 6.7 square kilometers (2.6 square miles) surface area.
The chief minister said that while there was a need to implement the result of the referendum, this should be done with a minimum of damage to people and businesses.
He also emphasized that sovereignty over Gibraltar was not a subject for discussion, given that it was something that was “more than settled by the Treaty of Utrecht and the 1975 Helsinki Agreements.”
He added that sovereignty was nowadays more about the will of the people than what he described as an exchange of territories or populations between monarchs.
Spain ceded Gibraltar’s sovereignty to Britain by treaty in 1713 but has persistently sought its return ever since.
Picardo also said his government was delighted with the British government’s commitment to guarantee Gibraltar’s financial services firms continued access to UK markets until 2020.
He added that the UK had also committed to working toward a replacement framework that would endure beyond 2020.
Gibraltar had also been given assurances that once the UK leaves the EU, British citizens resident in the territory would still be eligible for home fee status at further education institutions, an arrangement that would be reciprocal.
Gibraltar said that mutual arrangements would also continue in health matters, with the territory able to refer an unlimited number of patients to the UK for free medical treatment in its national health service.