Mar 26 - Full Text Of Chief Minister’s Speech To The Heritage Foundation

The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo delivered the following speech earlier today in Washington D.C at the Heritage Foundation:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to address your prestigious institution this morning.

 

It is an honor indeed to be here; and may I tell you that I think that recent events in the Eastern Mediterranean, which have occurred after this address was scheduled, make this opportunity much more apposite for reasons which I trust will become clear later on in my address.

 

First Contact with Heritage

 

Before I start on the subject of why little Gibraltar might make any difference whatsoever to a giant like the United States, let me reflect for a moment on what brings me to the Heritage Foundation.

 

The fact is that Gibraltar often hits the international headlines.

 

We do so, no doubt, because of Spain's historic dispute with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

 

Last year was no exception.

 

In July Gibraltar created an artificial reef in British sovereign waters just off the Rock.  I will tell you a little more about British Gibraltar Territorial Waters later in this address.

 

But the salient aspect I want to come to early is this: as Her Majesty's Government of Gibraltar monitored the varying reports in the international press about the situation in BGTW and Spain's retaliatory actions one unprompted statement of unqualified support come in an article in the influential Huffington Post on 8th August 2013.

 

It was an article that betrayed the fact that the writer knew and understood a level of detail about Gibraltar that seem out of kilter with the level of knowledge and understanding which is usually prevalent in the United States about the Rock which we call home.

 

The piece was signed off by a gentlemen by the name of Luke Coffey and was followed by a similarly perceptive piece in a Daily Telegraph blog by Neil Gardiner.

 

The face of the latter rang a bell with me but not much.

 

Well, you will know both of them are amongst the leading lights of this institution.

 

Neil - it turned out - was actually a contemporary of mine at Oriel College at Oxford University.

 

Luke had spent time in the United Kingdom working in for former UK Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox in Parliament, and therefore could understand the Gibraltar issues from the UK perspective.

 

Now, I must say, having received Luke in Gibraltar since we first met, I want to congratulate him.

 

You see, Luke has since written a paper in the February edition of your "Backgrounder" entitled "Self-Determination and National Security: Why the U.S. Should Back British Sovereignty over Gibraltar".

 

The opinion it expresses is exactly on all fours with the opinion of my Government.

 

For that I am grateful.

 

But perhaps most importantly, the paper is perhaps the best researched paper on American/Gibraltar relations and the depth of that relationship.

 

I commend that article to you all for its historic insight and it's contemporary significance.

 

So it is in the context of having been alerted to your existence by that article that we got in touch and established the contact now leads me to this stage.

 

Gibraltar: Where & What?

 

Before I start to tell you why my government believes that British sovereignty Gibraltar matters to and is in the interests of the United States, I should try and help those of you who might be new to the subject of Gibraltar to refresh your geographic bearings.

 

Where is Gibraltar, and what is Gibraltar?

 

Gibraltar is a small, rocky peninsula at the southernmost tip of Europe, at the entrance to the Mediterranean.  It is the crossroads of the ancient world, where the historic Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic.

 

To the Romans it was known as the Non Plus Ultra.

 

It has therefore long been one of the sea thoroughfares which has had great strategic and naval importance, since the times of Romans and Phoenicians.

 

That’s where we are.

 

In terms of international status, Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory and an almost entirely autonomous nation that is on the United Nations list of Non Self-Governing Territories, although we are entirely Self-Governing in all matters except defence and foreign affairs.

 

We have been British since 1704, when United Kingdom forces, together with Dutch forces, took Gibraltar during the War of Spanish Succession.

 

A treaty was signed in 1713 known as the Treaty Signed at Utrecht on European Peace, the Treaty of Utrecht, as it’s known in shorthand.  That’s exactly 301 years ago.

 

And the people of Gibraltar have long expressed our wish to remain British, despite Spanish efforts to recover the Rock on numerous occasions since it was conquered and ceded by treaty.

 

In fact, no sooner was the ink dry on the Treaty of Utrecht, that Spain was already subjecting Gibraltar to sieges in breach of the Treaty!

 

And even in modern times, after the Second World War, General Franco of Spain resurrected the claim to our sovereignty and pursued it with venom, even at one stage closing the land frontier between Gibraltar and Spain, thereby cutting off families from each other and isolating the Rock in an attempt to strangle our economy.

 

We survived that onslaught with a very British equivalent of the Berlin Airlift and a huge amount of support from the Kingdom of Morocco, our Southern neighbour - which has its own claims to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on North African shores, and on which I express no opinion.

 

We have voted in two referenda in the past almost 50 years.  In each, the most recent in 2002, the result has been clear and unequivocal: 98.5% express a desire to remain British.

 

And this is no rigged ballot.

 

No rigged question.

 

No Jerrymandering required.

 

In trying to understand how British we feel, think about it this way, Gibraltar has been British by treaty for 64 years more than the United States has been independent, and it’s been British by conquest for 73 years more than America has been independent.

 

So set in that context, the British people of Gibraltar now believe that they have an important and pivotal role to play in modern Europe and that the great synergy that exists between Gibraltar and the United States of America can be exploited to mutual benefit, in particular given our membership of the European Union.

 

These commercial opportunities exist alongside our continued strategic military significance to the United Kingdom and it's key allay, the United States.

 

The Historic US / Gib Links

 

And that is the historical context in which the United States and Gibraltar have had opportunities to work together in partnership.

 

The Special Relationship that binds the United Kingdom and the United States reflects on Gibraltar as a Special Bond of trust between us.

 

And that special relationship between the U.K. and the U.S., in particular in issues related to military and nuclear matters, also raises the significance and importance of Gibraltar to the United States given our importance as a key military asset of the United Kingdom.

 

The Military Significance of Gibraltar to the United States

 

Gibraltar’s utility as a military base derives principally from its geographical location and with his leave I will quite liberally now from Luke Coffey's work to help illustrate that significance throughout the last two centuries of American power being projected around the world.

 

Sir John Fisher, a former Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Navy, described Gibraltar in 1904 as “one of the five keys that lock up the world.

 

All vessels entering or leaving the Mediterranean to or from the Atlantic Ocean must pass through the Strait of Gibraltar and this made us hugely important for example at the time of the Cold War; watching the Russian fleet or listening for it if it was under the waves.

 

Gibraltar is one of the U.K.’s Permanent Joint Operating Bases and serves as an important forward operating base for the British  military, which affords a supply location for aircraft and ships destined for Africa and the Middle East for the U.K. and her allies.

 

The Port of Gibraltar provides a secure docking area for nuclear-powered submarines. The deepwater harbor provides vast amounts of safe anchorage.

 

The United Kingdom operates a "Z Berth" facility for recreational and non-nuclear repairs at Gibraltar, making it hugely important to both the UK and the US in this respect.

 

The U.S. Navy made use of Gibraltar for the first time during the First Barbary War between 1801 and 1805, where it was the U.S. Navy’s first port of call and as a staging and resupply post in the Mediterranean in its operations off the cost of North Africa against the Barbary states.

 

Other early examples of the U.S. using the military facilities at Gibraltar are as follows:

 

In 1818, during the Second Barbary War against the Regency of Algiers, another U.S. Navy task force was assembled at Gibraltar.

 

In 1899, U.S. Admiral George Dewey stopped in Gibraltar to resupply his ships after his defeat of the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay, which was part of the Spanish–American War.

 

In 1909, the Great White Fleet made its final stop in Gibraltar to resupply coal before heading back to the U.S. during its famous around-the-world trip.  Each ship required between 1,200 and 1,600 tons of coal to make it home during this last leg of its journey; therefore Gibraltar’s location at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea proved to be very useful.

 

It was not until World War I that the use of Gibraltar really demonstrated its strategic value for the United States. The Royal Navy used Gibraltar as a base for its Mediterranean operations from the beginning of the war.  Gibraltar was a crucial meeting point for many Allied convoys before crossing the Atlantic. The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard joined British forces at Gibraltar and operated together as part of the so-called Gibraltar Barrage.  The Gibraltar Barrage was an Anglo–American naval squadron tasked with keeping German submarines from passing from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic after the surrender of Austria and Turkey. And Gibraltar was also used as a location to refit and resupply U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships throughout the war.

 

But perhaps the greatest presence of American assets in Gibraltar occurred during the Second World War.  During that conflict, Gibraltar’s importance was highlighted in the defense of freedom and democracy in the face of advancing Nazi fascism across Europe and much of the world.

 

The advance of Operation Torch, which was the beginning of the fight back by the Allies to take back North Africa, and then from there Europe, was led by General Eisenhower from Gibraltar.

 

The Great General Eisenhower had his headquarters in Europe inside the Rock of Gibraltar. The rock is riven with tunnels.  There are more miles of tunnels inside the rock than there are miles of road on the rock.  And in the very center of the rock was General Eisenhower in his command centre, a future American President sitting in the very heart of the Rock,

 

[As an aside let me tell you that my now deceased elderly father was a member of the first intake of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, which was formed 75 years ago at the start of World War 2, and I remember him telling me stories of collecting letters from the General to take to the British Governor.]

 

The airfield at Gibraltar was developed at the same time from an old hippodrome, and using much of the debris from creating tunnels inside the rock.

 

During the second world war our airport was covered in fighter aircraft and in bomber aircraft of the Allied Command.

 

Eisenhower himself put it this way in his book "Crusade in Europe":

 

"There was no other place to use. In November 1942 the Allied nations possessed, except for the Gibraltar Fortress, not a single spot of ground in all the region of western Europe, and in the Mediterranean area, nothing west of Malta. Britain’s Gibraltar made possible the invasion of north-west Africa. Without it the vital air cover would not have been quickly established on the North African fields."

 

The use of Gibraltar during World War II was of course only possible because it was not under Spanish control, as Spain was pretending to be neutral in the conflict.

 

In the Cold War Gibraltar was an equally significant military asset during that period.

 

I remember being a child at school learning about the divisions between East and West and the Berlin Wall and seeing the places that were targeted by Moscow for nuclear attack. Gibraltar was one of them.  So the importance of Gibraltar was not underestimated by the enemies of freedom and democracy.  They too saw the importance and significance of Gibraltar, not just to the United Kingdom but also to the United States as an important ally.

 

Perhaps before I move on to more modern times, I can tell you that there’s a very interesting and significant discovery, just off Gibraltar’s airfield, of a Liberator aircraft of the United States Air Force that appears to have gone down in the second world war in operations off Gibraltar Airport.  We know that three such Liberators went down.  One of them carried General Sikorski, the president of the people of Poland, who died just off Gibraltar’s runway.

 

Another Liberator bomber was Bomber AL516.

 

And the third that went down – and it appears to be the one that has recently been found by the Gibraltar Museum research unit – was Liberator Bomber AM911.

 

The government of Gibraltar will be working with the museum to try and bring Liberator Bomber AM911 out of the sea and on permanent exhibition, to show the relationship between Gibraltar and the people of the United States is an enduring one and has been continuing now for many generations indeed.  I think that’s an important project for us to highlight at this time of wanting to demonstrate and strengthen the ties between the people of Gibraltar and the people of the United States.

 

The Modern Significance of the Rock

 

After the Cold War, when the world started to appear not to be divided between East and West and started to appear to become polarized between North and South, Gibraltar’s importance of course remains pivotal. Gibraltar is at the western  end of the a Mediterranean and we face down towards North Africa.  On a good day, we can see cars circulating on the North African coast.

 

Operation El Dorado Canyon, the 1986 U.S. air strikes on Libya; U.S. Navy assets supporting the operations used the port at Gibraltar.

 

In 1990 and 1991, an estimated 193 U.S. Navy ships used BGTW in support of operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.  Crucially, Gibraltar was used by the U.S. Ready Reserve Fleet to refuel en route to the Middle East

 

U.S. nuclear submarines frequently visited the Z berths at Gibraltar.

 

The recent intervention in Libya, when the two U.S. attack submarines USS Florida and USS Providence were resupplied at Gibraltar after launching their cruise missiles against Libyan targets.

 

As North Africa becomes more of a security issue for the U.S. due to a growing terrorist presence, Gibraltar will become increasingly important

 

In modern times Gibraltar has remained a staging post for the fleet of the United Kingdom, which, of course, continues to hold a joint operations base at Gibraltar and a forward-mounting base using Gibraltar Airport.

 

But we’re not just there for the United Kingdom.

 

We’re also there for her allies.

 

And we therefore frequently receive in Gibraltar visits of the United States Mediterranean Fleet and sometime visits of the United States nuclear assets, like nuclear submarines of the United States fleet.

 

Because perhaps it’s only in Gibraltar that a Mediterranean civilian political leader is telling you that your military assets are very welcome.  They are as welcome as the military assets of the United Kingdom; because Gibraltar understands the importance of being there in support of British Foreign Policy interests and the defence of western democracy as we know it.

 

Gibraltar has never turned away a movement of U.S. naval assets.  Indeed, it’s not in the gift of the civilian government of Gibraltar to do so.  But we’ve also made you feel very welcome when you have visited at the invitation of Her Majesty' Government of the United Kingdom,

 

Gibraltar extends a welcome to the U.S. naval fleet in the Mediterranean.  And there aren’t many ports in the world, let alone in the troubled Mediterranean region, that can say that.

 

It's a place in which you find an Anglo-Saxon mentality, not seeking transactional relationship - we know there is no security without the UK and the US, and we are grateful.

 

The jurisdictional aspects cannot be underestimated: an AngloSaxon jurisdiction at a key strategic location that works under an umbrella you understand, without any need for excessive cultural translation.

 

We understand Gibraltar’s continued strategic significance, even in today’s more modern world.

 

 

The Commercial Relationship

 

But Gibraltar is not just a strategic military asset.  It’s also an important center for international commerce, almost a pivotal center for international commerce.

 

We have a highly regulated financial services sector that is praised by the OECD and the IMF for its regulatory standards.

 

We enjoy a full Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the United States.

 

We fully comply with all European Union regulation.

 

Gibraltar’s a full part of the European Union as a territory of the European continent for which a member state of the European Union, namely, the United Kingdom, is responsible.  We therefore have obligations to transpose into Gibraltar law as a separate European jurisdiction from the United Kingdom all the European Union directives, rules and regulations.

 

And we do that - which gives us unrestricted access to the single market in services of 520 million people that is the EU.

 

In fact, Gibraltar is one of the very few European Union jurisdictions that can claim that all European Union laws which require transposition have been transposed into Gibraltar law.

 

Gibraltar is therefore a fully compliant EU jurisdiction.

 

And that culture of compliance, which pervades everything that Gibraltar does in respect of any organization to which we belong, enabled us to support British prime minister Cameron's push in June of last year to take the G-8 agenda to jurisdictions that were untransparent and noncompliant.

 

Indeed since 1994 Gibraltar has been one of the leaders in the international fight against money laundering and the prevention of the use of the financial system for the laundering of the proceeds of drug trafficking and all crimes.

 

But we don’t just do financial services, and we’re not just an important military asset of the United Kingdom and therefore the United States.

 

Gibraltar is also the largest jurisdiction in the world, the most successful jurisdiction in the world, in the provision of online gaming services.

 

Online gaming is a burgeoning part of e-commerce, and Gibraltar is at the forefront of that. Many territories may have thousands of online casinos registered.  Gibraltar has only 26, but they are the 26 biggest operators in the world, the 26 most reputable operators in the world and subject to the most stringent regulation in the world.

 

In online gaming, when people are giving their money over the Internet to place a bet, the most important relationship is one of trust between those who engage in the games and those that are there to pay on their bets.  Because Gibraltar is so highly regulated, it has become the place of choice for the leading operators in the world.  Approximately 60 percent of all online gaming business in the world is done through Gibraltar.

 

Now, in that context, when the United States took the decision to prohibit online gaming from outside state under the provisions of the Wire Act, there was only one jurisdiction in the world that as a condition of continuing to license its operators required them not to operate in the United States.  And that was Gibraltar.  And therefore, as the United States opens up its online gaming market again, we believe that Gibraltar is in pole position to demonstrate to each of the states of the United States that we have been respectful of its laws and that this demonstrates how highly regulated the industry is in Gibraltar.

 

And it’s regulated both in terms of how licensing happens, and it’s regulated in terms of what licensing must do in order to ensure that people do not become addicted to gambling, in order to ensure that there is no rigging of matches or games, and in order to ensure that young people themselves do not game when they are not under the age or over the age when they’re able to do so.

 

In those circumstances, I’ve put it to you that Gibraltar is an important stepping stone into Europe for those who wish to do business within the European Union.  We are a low-tax jurisdiction.  Tax in Gibraltar is 10 percent, the region of the tax applied in Ireland and Luxembourg and, for example, Malta.  But we are the only common law jurisdiction on the southern end of Europe without value-added taxation applied as a result of a derogation negotiated by the United Kingdom at the time of accession to the European Union in 1972.

 

So you have businesses from the United States who are considering how to access the European Union.  Where else would it find a jurisdiction that is friendly to the United States military, that speaks English as the official language of the territory, that is subject to the principles of the common law, that has a low-tax regime, where VAT is not payable and yet gives you full access into the European Union single market in services?

 

Only in Gibraltar.

 

And today, the United States drives Gibraltar to a great extent.

 

Why do I say that?

 

Because my official car is no longer a Jaguar.  It's a Tesla crafted in California.

 

The best of American ingenuity.

 

Our online gaming industry is drive. By the fibre network installed by anyone's of New York when they were our partners in our telephone company.

 

The best of American expertise.

 

And our ship repair facility, which used to be the Royal Naval docks are now owned and operated by an American investment fund out of New York.

 

American financial engineering delivering real engineering success on the ground.

 

So at a human, commercial and military level we must further strengthen the ties that bind the American people and the British people of Gibraltar even further.

 

Let the Special Relationship continue to give life to this Special Bond of Trust.