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Brexit Threatens Main Source of Employment in the Campo de Gibraltar

Soraya Fernández · Photos: Fran Montes and InfoGibraltar

Brexit Threatens Main Source of Employment in the Campo de Gibraltar

So far the Rock has successfully circumvented the Brexit threat. Employment numbers have continued to rise, but this trend could come to a halt if Britain exits the European Union without an agreement.

Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar contemplate the consequences of Brexit – which draw closer – with uncertainty and fear. The United Kingdom’s break from the EU will most likely become a reality on October 31st. A divorce without an agreement could have serious repercussions on the area’s economy and wreak havoc on the main source of employment in the region.

The Rock of Gibraltar and the Campo Hinterland
@Christian Ferrary

Gibraltar did not want Brexit to happen, with 96 % of Gibraltarians voting to remain in the European bloc in the 2016 referendum and has had no problems to deal with so far. In fact, employment has continued to rise since Britain decided to leave the EU.

According to the latest report published by the Government of Gibraltar, the period up to October of last year saw the number of workers on the Rock rise to 29,995; 7% more than in the same period in 2017, when the figure stood at 28,029.

Brexit Employment Campo de Gibraltar

This meant 1,966 more jobs consolidating the upward trend we have seen in recent years. The increase is attributed mainly to the private sector, with an 8.8% increase, from 22,029 jobs in 2017 to 23,969 last year – 1,940 more people in work.

The largest increases were in construction, real estate and other services. The online gaming industry saw a 5.8% growth, rising from 3,590 to 3,800 workers. However, the flight of companies from this sector due to Brexit fears continues, some having already left the Rock or announcing that they will do so. The online gaming giant Bet365 has reduced its workforce in Gibraltar to only 100. On the other hand, the British sports betting operator Virgin Bet will be setting up in Gibraltar. Public sector employment also rose by 0.5%, reaching 5,522 jobs.

Brexit Employment Gibraltar

By nationality, the number of Gibraltarians employed last year was 11,228. They were followed by 8,813 Spanish workers, 1,226 higher than in October 2017, an increase of 16.2%; other British workers (5,928) and citizens of other EU countries 3,203 employees, 362 more than in the same period of the previous year.

Unemployment is virtually non-existent, and this is another key factor in the strength of Gibraltar’s labour market and, by extension, of the Gibraltarian economy. On August 3, the number of unemployed stood at 37, twenty less than at the beginning of the year.

Cross-frontier workers account for 25% of the GDP income of the Campo de Gibraltar

Brexit Employment Campo de Gibraltar

If there is one sector that is particularly concerned about Brexit, it is the cross-frontier workers, whose contributions to the economies of Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar are indisputable. These workers still do not know how they will be affected by the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

The Government of Gibraltar has told Reach that all cross-frontier workers, including Spaniards, make an important contribution to the Gibraltar economy and to that of the region. It is estimated that this workforce accounts for 25% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Campo de Gibraltar. According to other sources, the annual impact is around €700,000,000.

While in October of last year there were 13,654 cross-frontier workers in Gibraltar, the majority of which were Spanish (8,077), by this August the figure had risen to 15,275 according to the latest data. Of these 9,726 are Spanish (568 more than last January) and 2,339 are British.

Fletcher-Report-Brexit-Reach-Alcance
The Fletcher Report: ‘A “hard” Brexit will have an enormous impact on both Gibraltar’s and Andalusia’s economies,’

By sector, the breakdown of Spanish workers in Gibraltar was as follows in October: shipbuilding, 65; manufacturing, 129; electricity and water supply, 1; construction, 2,126; commerce, 1,535; hotels and restaurants, 1,125; transport and communications, 532; financial services, 204; real estate and business activities, 1,181; public administration, 5; education, 40; health and social work, 666; other services, 818.

With less than two months until the departure is confirmed, this important cross-frontier labour force still do not know what kind of documentation they will need to get to and from their jobs on the Rock, that is to say, how Brexit will affect the free movement of people through the frontier.

Frontier delays could also disrupt tourism which is one of Gibraltar economic motors. If this were to occur, it would lead to a substantial loss of jobs on the Rock. Nor is it yet known how Brexit will affect the importation of goods, which could also have far-reaching consequences.

The Association of Spanish Workers in Gibraltar (ASCTEG) is anxious as to what might happen. It warns that if there is a “hard” Brexit, thousands of jobs could be lost, especially in La Línea de la Concepción.

Devaluation of the Pound

There has been a continuous devaluation of the Pound since Brexit was announced and the situation has worsened with Boris Johnson’s arrival at 10 Down Street. This is causing great harm to Spanish workers in Gibraltar, who have already seen a loss of 25% in purchasing power, with fears that things could get worse.

Brexit could also change certain established systems, such as the recognition of professional qualifications under agreements that exist due to the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU.

Boris Johnson guaranteed Gibraltar would be “fully involved” in any no-deal plans under his government.
Boris Johnson as Prime Minister Causes Concern Over Hard Brexit

This could impact on doctors, health workers, lawyers, engineers, financial services executives and other Spanish professionals working on the Rock – whose numbers have been rising. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of Spaniards occupying qualified and senior positions in various sectors of the Gibraltar labour market.

It is also unclear whether the memoranda of understanding signed by Spain and the United Kingdom on citizens’ rights, tobacco and environmental issues and police and customs cooperation, which were endorsed by Gibraltar, will be in force.

Lorenzo Pérez-Periáñez, president of the Grupo Transfronterizo (Cross-Frontier Group), which brings together social and economic bodies from both sides of the border, believes that a no deal Brexit will have “dramatic consequences.”

For its part, the Government of Gibraltar has made it clear that it will respect the positions of all EU citizens, including the Spaniards who work on the Rock.

2,500 Spanish Workers Depend on Gibraltar Tourism

The Great Gibraltar Sand Dune
@Christian Ferrary

For Fabian Picardo’s Government, the most important Brexit challenge is the frontier: “It is important that there continues to be fluidity for residents, workers and tourists. For example, there are more than 2,500 Spaniards employed in Gibraltar’s tourism industry. It is in everyone’s interest that fluidity at the frontier continues for all,” said a government spokesperson.

Brexit Threatens Main Source of Employment in the Campo de Gibraltar

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