UK exit from the European Union would be “a disaster” that would risk creating “an economic and social rift” between Gibraltar and the neighbouring region in Spain, the Cross-Frontier Group said in a report published by the Gibraltar Chronicle. The group’s president, Ángel Serrano, warned that Brexit posed a serious risk to employment and investment on both sides of the border.
In a statement Serrano, who is the regional secretary in the Campo de Gibraltar for leading Spanish union UGT, reflected on the impact of a Brexit to the wider Spanish economy, saying it could hit key sectors such as tourism and Spanish workers currently living in Britain.
But his main focus was closer to home, where a vote to leave the UK would have a damaging effect not just on the Rock but on the Campo too.
“It would be a disaster,” he said in a statement issued on behalf of the Cross-Frontier Group. At a time when neighbours on either side of the border are trying to build links for the greater prosperity of the region as a whole, it would be a step backwards.”
The Cross-Frontier Group brings together unions, business organisations and public entities from Gibraltar and Spain who are working to encourage economic growth through cross-border projects.
The group’s key initiative is to establish a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation [EGTC] as a means of promoting transnational cooperation and economic opportunities.
It believes the EGTC, an EU framework established to foster cross-frontier cooperation between public entities, could provide the necessary space for long term initiatives to prosper between Gibraltar and communities in the Campo de Gibraltar.
If the UK leaves the EU, however, that project would likely grind to a standstill, adding to the reasons why the group is warning about the negative impact of a Brexit on the region as a whole.
“It would create an economic and social rift between one side of the border and the other, the exact opposite of what the cross-frontier group has been trying to achieve, which is for both sides to work together to encourage overall growth,” Serrano said.
“If the UK leaves, the EU will not be able to guarantee employment, health and pension rights and this would impact British investments in Spain and those made by Spanish companies in Gibraltar.”
The group believes that a Brexit would also lead to a drop in wages for Spanish workers in Gibraltar and the UK. It would also raise questions as to the pensions rights of workers who have paid over many years while the UK was an EU member.
In the Campo, a Brexit would add further downward pressure on an area already facing serious economic challenges and high unemployment. “Thousands of people go to Gibraltar to work every day and companies go there to offer services,” the statement said.