Unite leader demands ‘special status’ for Gibraltar as Brexit poses greatest challenge in a generation

Len McCluskey will call for ‘special status’ for Gibraltar in order to preserve its open border with Spain after Brexit, when he addresses a meeting of Spanish and Gibraltarian trade unions today (12 July).

The general secretary of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s biggest union, will warn that Brexit poses “the greatest challenge the people of Gibraltar have faced in a generation” when he launches a historic new agreement between Unite, three Spanish trade unions and Gibraltar’s teaching union forming the Southern inter-regional trade union (IRTUC).

Len McCluskey will say: “Brexit poses the greatest challenge the people of Gibraltar have faced in a generation. It has a unique relationship with the EU and is uniquely exposed to a hard Brexit, the implications of which for our members and other workers are deep and serious. Any deal signed between the UK and EU must acknowledge this.

“Freedom of movement across the frontier between Gibraltar and Spain is part of the Rock’s lifeblood. Non-resident labour crosses the border every day and is pivotal to the economy and for the construction, health and care sectors in particular.

“Special status for Gibraltar means the Rock retaining all the current benefits that it currently needs to sustain and develop its local economy, including freedom of movement for Gibraltarians, other residents and EU residents as part of the EU exit package.”

Gibraltar’s unique relationship with the EU was first enshrined in the Treaty of Accession, which came into force in 1973. The UK only has responsibility for the Rock’s “external relations” and defence, with its economy managed and controlled by the elected government of Gibraltar.

Len McCluskey will conclude: “The open frontier with Spain must be retained and I demand that Theresa May and her Brexit team recognise this and that those people and communities who rely on the Gibraltar economy for their livelihoods are not used as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations.”

The formation of the IRTUC aims to promote inter-regional cooperation, develop solidarity between workers in the region, analyse and tackle the economic, social and cultural problems faced by its members and build on the campaign by Unite and Spanish unions to keep the Gibraltar border open.

Its founding members are Unite, the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO), and the Gibraltar Teachers Association / National Association of School Masters and Union of Women Teachers (GTA/NASUWT).

As part of the launch of the IRTUC, Unite will set out its 10 point plan for Gibraltar, a strategy to defend the long-term interests of members on the Rock. This includes special status, continued tariff-free access to the single market, keeping the frontier open, defending workers’ rights, solidarity with sister unions, and a new investment strategy through a partnership between the Gibraltar government, trade unions and industry.

Download Unite’s document “Building Solidarity Across Borders: Gibraltar and Brexit” here.