An all-parliamentary party delegation of UK MEPs, Members of Northern Ireland’s Assembly and Peers including Lib Dem MEP Caroline Voaden were this week briefed by Gibraltar’s leaders on costly and complex contingency plans for No Deal Brexit.
Top officials warned a No Deal Brexit will radically affect the delivery of fresh food, pharmaceuticals and waste disposal, as well as the free movement of people across the border.
Caroline Voaden, representing the South West and Gibraltar, said: “This is the first time since 1948 that a logistical exercise of this scale will be needed to bring fresh food and medicines to people in Europe. Gibraltar is preparing for the worst-case scenario.
It is shameful and deeply irresponsible for Boris Johnson’s Government to have placed the people of Gibraltar in this predicament – which they have compared to being under siege.”
This year marks 50 years since Spain’s dictator General Franco closed the border in 1969, during his siege of the British territory. People had to make a day-long journey by sea to visit friends and family rather than walk across the frontier. The border was reopened only in 1982, several years after Franco’s death.
Most at risk from Brexit is delivery of fresh food and pharmaceuticals and the management of waste. Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia warned: “The main change is that foodstuffs coming from the UK will have to enter and exit EU territory for thorough checks at Border Inspection Posts - but we have none here.
“There is no certainty as to what framework the Spanish will work under after Brexit. Normally, 300 trucks a day come into Gibraltar, 30 of them bringing perishable goods. We are exploring the costs of chartering a plane or ferry to bring food in if necessary, as a last resort, and fresh goods by sea from Portugal.”
MEP Voaden remarked: “We heard today that as well as disruption to food and medical supplies, Gibraltar also produces 100,000 tonnes of waste a year which goes to Spain. To think they may have to store their rubbish for up to a year under the majestic rock is preposterous.”
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabien Picardo said he thought it unlikely they would leave EU on October 31st but know they can survive because Gibraltar produces its own water and electricity. “But just because we know how to survive in a situation of siege, does not mean we want to do it again,” he said.
The delegation is on a fact-finding mission at the invitation of the Gibraltar Government to attend events to mark Gibraltar’s National Day and discuss the impact of Brexit. They were also briefed on Gibraltar’s public information campaign urging the public and businesses to get ready for a No Deal Brexit. A live exercise will take place in early October to war game the No Deal scenario.
Voaden concluded: “The UK Government’s own assessment in the leaked Yellowhammer report warned of several hours delay for tens of thousands of residents and workers who cross the border delay, as well as a major disruption to the flow of goods that will harm the economy.
How is it right or democratic for the UK government to create such hardship in a territory that voted to remain in the EU by a massive 96% majority?”