Yellowhammer Report Leak

Gibraltar needs honest and transparent information to prepare for an increasingly likely no-deal Brexit

The leaked UK Cabinet Office’s Operation Yellowhammer report detailing potential no-deal Brexit scenarios troubled many in Gibraltar. Claims and counter-claims about the age of the content - both in the UK and Gibraltar - have only added to people’s confusion and increased their concern.

At this moment, those seeking answers to their insecurities and fears in the UK have nearly 2,600 results of official statements and information at their disposal, most of it geared to help them understand the impact of Brexit. Anyone turning to the Gibraltar Government’s website for clarification however, have access to a paltry eight results. A YouGov poll, commissioned by the Sunday Times and published at the weekend, revealed that the leak of the Yellowhammer document had made 15% of people “more worried” about the impact of a no-deal Brexit. The same appears true in Gibraltar too.

People have been shaken by revelations that up to 85% of lorries crossing the English Channel could face French customs delays of 2½ days and that initial traffic flows at UK ports will be reduced to below 50% of the current rate. People keep asking whether we should expect similar levels of disruption to our supplies and how exactly we intend to surmount these challenges. Alternative sea routes, dependent on adequate roll-on/roll-off port facilities being ready in time, may not be enough to keep goods flowing normally.

Unfortunately the Government’s response has been often evasive and inadequately backed up. Questions over the supply of food and medicines into Gibraltar continue to mount, unabated by the Chief Minister’s reassuring, but ultimately self-serving, words. His admission that delays of over four hours at the Spanish border are possible, even though he does not consider them probable, has done little to allay people’s fears.

Together Gibraltar understands just how concerned the people and businesses of Gibraltar are. Every day, we hear their anguish. Constituents are worried about the stocking of vital medication to treat family members. Pharmacists tell us they have received no information from Government on preparing for possible shortages. Business owners, dependent on essential imports, cannot find any information about transport and customs arrangements after Brexit Day, 31 October. We struggle to find the answers for them due to the striking paucity of readily-available information.

At Together Gibraltar, we not only believe in listening, we believe in transparency and communicating with people about matters that will help them go about their daily lives. In the case of Brexit, that means communicating about the things that will equip them in preparing for the challenges of Brexit. Leaving the EU, let alone a no-deal Brexit, is overwhelmingly contrary to what Gibraltar wants or needs. But a better-informed Gibraltar will be better able to cope with it, deal or no-deal.

A Gibraltar election is imminent and Together Gibraltar, with its full slate of ten, is already making preparations for a Government Information Office whose initial priority will be to provide the information needed by citizens and businesses to best tackle Brexit. If the election occurs before Brexit Day, a Together Gibraltar government will be devote its first week to assess Gibraltar’s readiness and initiate measures to shore up people’s ability to withstand the adverse effects of Brexit. Whether before or after Brexit Day, a Communications Task Force will start work immediately on filling the information void left by the outgoing government, ensuring priority is given to keeping the public fully informed.

A Together Gibraltar government will open a Brexit advice centre in town and establish a 24/7 phone enquiry service. We will provide Brexit support at all Gibraltar’s frontier crossings and at the airport and port to assist travellers, importers and exporters. We will immediately work with local authorities in La Linea to provide liaison facilities on the Spanish side in order to help alleviate any problems encountered there. This will be especially relevant in the event of extended frontier delays which will affect tourists, residents and the 15,000 workers who cross daily and help Gibraltar’s vibrant economy thrive.

Gibraltarians are not alien to challenges and hardship, and have always stood up to crises with unity and conviction. We believe this time will be no different. Whatever Brexit throws at us, we will confront it in the spirit of the values of community, solidarity and fraternity that has characterised our people. However, people need to be well informed in order to do their bit to overcome these challenges, as well as give them peace of mind and confidence in their institutions.

Together Gibraltar’s primary concern will be to minimise the impact of Brexit on people’s daily lives through carefully planned action and ample and transparent communication.

Siân Jones