Gibraltar's deputy chief minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, has said that the combination of Britain leaving the EU and the Covid-19 pandemic have the potential makings of a "perfect storm", the consequences of which will be felt for years to come. Dr Garcia, who is the leader of the Gibraltar Liberal Party, was taking part in a panel discussion entitled "Brexit in times of Covid-19" during the UK Liberal Democrat conference which was completely virtual this year.
The deputy chief minister shared the panel with Alistair Carmichael, who is MP for Orkney and Shetland and the Lib Dem shadow Home Affairs spokesman, and was previously responsible for Foreign Affairs. This provided a perspective on these issues from Gibraltar and from Scotland. The discussion, which was sold out, was chaired by the Director of Gibraltar House in London, Dominique Searle.
Dr Garcia explained the challenges posed to a small administration such as Gibraltar in having to deal with the pandemic and Brexit at the same time, saying this was not easy given that the same people were often intensely involved in both areas of government activity. He outlined the way the pandemic had evolved in Gibraltar since the first positive case was confirmed on 3 March and the measures taken to combat it.
He also said the irony was not lost on him that the discussion included elected representatives from Gibraltar and Scotland, both of whom had voted Remain. He then explained that the stockpiling of medical supplies in the face of a no-deal Brexit had actually proven very useful when dealing with the pandemic.
The DCM gave a general outline of the ongoing negotiations for a future relationship between Gibraltar and the EU and explained the importance of border fluidity going forward. Gibraltar had always enjoyed a differentiated relationship with the EU from the UK, he pointed out, given its geographical position and distinct interests. He also went over the plans for no agreement, in the event that it was not possible to conclude a deal.
Dr Garcia accompanied chief minister Fabian Picardo to Madrid for further technical talks about the future relationship with the EU this week, but at the time of writing there has been no official comment on those discussions.