Brexit could leave Jews of Gibraltar on rocky ground
THE JEWISH community of Gibraltar feels “fear and trepidation” over its future after the territory became embroiled in a major dispute following Theresa May’s triggering of the process for Britain to leave the European Union.
A row over the British overseas territory began after the European Council said Gibraltar could only join trade discussions between London and Brussels with Spain’s agreement.
Former Conservative leader Michael Howard suggested on Sunday that Mrs May would be prepared to go to war to protect the territory — comparing it to Baroness Thatcher defending the Falklands in the 1980s.
There are around 800 Jews in Gibraltar; the territory is home to 30,000 people.
Rabbi Raphy Garson, of Elstree Federation Synagogue, who was born in Manchester and brought up in Gibraltar, said concern about the future of his “homeland” had grown since the EU referendum last year.
“People are worried about their futures. I grew up there with a border that was closed and it wasn’t very pleasant. And there has been a genuine fear that this could again become a reality,” he said.
Rabbi Garson said his Gibraltarian Gibraltar could become a key battleground in the Brexit negotiations
relatives, who are proudly British, had been applying for passports from EU countries.
“My grandmother was born in Lisbon, so my uncle now has a Portuguese passport. The mood of the people is one of the unknown, it is of trepidation and it is of fear.”
Sarah Sackman, a Labour candidate in the 2015 general election, criticised what she called unwelcome “sabre-rattling on all sides” of the negotiations.
Ms Sackman’s grandfather, a businessman from Gibraltar, served as a government minister and her mother, who runs the family cosmetic business, splits her time between London and the territory.
Ms Sackman said: “It is pleasing to see the calmer, more reflective tone from both the British and Spanish governments since the weekend.
“Gibraltar’s overwhelming vote to remain in the EU was a vote not only to ensure its own prosperity and the rights of Gibraltarians, but it was also aimed at protecting the well-being of the thousands of Spaniards who travel across the border to work on the Rock every day.”
Rabbi Garson agreed. He said: “Just on the other
side of Gibraltar you have a not very flourishing Spanish city. It is very poor and has lots of council houses.
“A lot of the residents pass the border every day and they get their livelihood from Gibraltar.”
Marlene Hassan-Nahon, a Jewish Independent MP in Gibraltar, said she was not surprised it had become “a thorn in the side of the Brexit negotiation”. Ms Hassan-Nahon said: “While I have been encouraged by the response from Theresa May’s government, I am nonetheless concerned that sovereignty seems to have been the main preoccupation.
“It is important to be level-headed and avoid provocative associations with the war in 1982.”
Gibraltar, situated on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, believes it has the right of self-determination, something Spain disputes.
In 2002 Gibraltarians overwhelmingly rejected a vote on the idea of Britain and Spain sharing sovereignty. Both sides have complained about intrusions on fishing areas, while Spain has accused Gibraltar of being a tax haven, allowing the wealthy to avoid paying millions.