Gibraltar could play a role in contingency plans drawn up by the Foreign Office to evacuate British expatriates in the event of a banking collapse in Spain and Portugal, according to the Sunday Times.
The FCO is concerned that ex-pats who have invested savings in their adopted countries could be left stranded, unable to withdraw cash and facing losing their homes if the banks call in loans.
Officials are preparing to deal with “a nightmare scenario” of thousands of Britons sleeping at airports with no money or means to get home. The newspaper said the plans under discussion included sending planes, ships and coaches to evacuate ex-pats.
“Some could be returned home via Gibraltar,” the Sunday Times story said.
The story came against the background of financial turbulence in the Euro-zone, with Spain and Portugal seen as among the most vulnerable European economies.
A powerful credit rating agency downgraded 10 Spanish banks last week, while another warned over the weekend the debt crisis was threatening to spiral out of control.
Almost one million Britons, many of them pensioners, live in Spain including in large communities in nearby Málaga and Marbella. There are around 50,000 UK nationals living in Portugal.
“All British embassies regularly update contingency planning all sorts of scenarios including natural disasters and internal political unrest,” an FCO spokesman told the Gibraltar Chronicle.