UK Triggers Article 50, Offers Reassurance to Nervy Gibraltar

Posted on: March 30, 2017, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: March 30, 2017, 02:26h.

On Wednesday, the UK triggered Article 50, the clause in the Treaty of Lisbon that provides for a member state initiate the process of withdrawing from the European Union.

UK triggers Article 50, Gibraltar’s Fabio Picardo receives assurances
Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has vowed that the Rock will not become anyone’s bargaining chip as Brexit negotiations begin in earnest. (Image:

It will take Britain two years to fully leave the union, and Gibraltar, the European online gambling hub on the southern tip of Spain, will reluctantly go with it.

Gibraltar, also known as “the Rock,” voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in last year’s Brexit referendum, by more than 94 percent. An EU member by virtue of its status as a British territory, Gibraltar has benefited from the free cross-border movement of people, goods, services and capital that EU membership assured.

This, and its investment in its own tech and infrastructure have allowed it to transform itself over the past 15 years into a major online gambling jurisdiction.

Between “the Rock” and a Hard Place

The territory’s online gambling industry is its biggest employer, accounting for thousands of jobs, as well as 25 percent of its GDP. The big problem for Gibraltar is that it’s tiny, which means the vast majority of its workforce lives across the border in Spain.

Much of the territory’s ability to continue to exist as a major jurisdiction, then, may lie in Spain’s willingness to permit some degree of cross-border movement.

But Gibraltar has long been the subject of an occasionally hostile sovereignty dispute between Britain and Spain, which wants Gibraltar back after it was ceded to Britain in 1713. 

Spain has offered a “shared sovereignty” proposal that would allow Gibraltar to stay in the EU. But Gibraltar’s residents consider themselves overwhelmingly British and have rejected shared sovereignty.

Sovereignty Not in Play

Fabian Picardo, the territory’s chief minister reaffirmed this on Wednesday, adding that “now, during and after” the Brexit negotiations, Gibraltar’s British sovereignty “is not in play.”

“Gibraltar will be no-one’s bargaining chip,” he said.

Picardo was addressing the Gibraltar Parliament shortly after British Prime Minister Theresa May made public assurances that the UK was “absolutely steadfast” in its support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy, and guaranteed it continued access to the UK market for financial services, where its companies do most of their business.

Picardo said he remained “cautiously optimistic” that Spain would permit border fluidity and that Gibraltar would be continue to prosper as the UK forges new trade deals in new markets around the world.