It happened again. Unexpected, (or was it?) as it was, Donald Trump stormed to a substantial victory in the US general election held this month, much to the surprise, probably concern, of many establishment figures and observers around the world.
The gloom lasted no more than a couple of hours though - it took just one 15 minute acceptance speech to make markets forget all talk of walls and expulsion of immigrants and for the focus to turn, expectantly, at what the new Trump era of deregulation of financial services, repatriation of jobs and business to the UK and a wholesale review of America's trade arrangements with the world could bring.
Theresa May's warm congratulations, Boris Johnson's call with VP Mike Pence and the apparent closeness of Mr Farage to the President-elect, all contrasted sharply with the rather cooler response to the election by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and the impromptu meeting held by the EU to discuss the result of the poll. These contrasting approaches translated into diametrically divergent responses in the currency markets, Sterling surging against Euro whilst the latter wilted.
The relevance of the American election to Gibraltar's position in the Brexit context has, surprisingly quickly, become apparent in the shape of comments in the Spanish media that suggest that the US Republican, ultra-conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, which has close ties to the President-Elect and which will likely play a key role in the development of the Trump administration's foreign policy, attaches great importance to Gibraltar remaining a British Overseas Territory.
In other developments, and as highlighted in Marcus Killick's introduction to this edition of the newsletter, the British Secretary of State for Trade, Dr Liam Fox MP, recently confirmed the British Government's commitment to Gibraltar of maintaining single market access to the UK for our financial services industries. Further, the news of a change at the helm of the Spanish foreign ministry has also been well received locally. It is expected that his replacement, a European politician through and through, who harks from the nearby town of Jerez de la Frontera, will be keen to adopt and maintain a softer, more conciliatory approach to the Gibraltar issue than his predecessor. It isunderstood, in fact, that in recent days, when meeting for the first time, the British and Spanish foreign ministers made only a passing reference to Gibraltar, in stark contrast with the approach of the previous Spanish foreign minister.
Despite these developments, and even if we ignore the Deloitte 'Brexit Update' of the last few days, all we hear from the British Government is, still, that Brexit means Brexit.
From a local perspective, this has really very little meaning at all. We expect that, as soon as Article 50 is triggered, whether that is by way of an act of Parliament or by the use of the Royal Prerogative (we will watch the proceedings in the Supreme Court with bated breath), we are fully engaged in the process of re-discovering the Gibraltar proposition and in building the strategy to get the message out that we continue to be open for business and plan to be so for a long, long time, despite what challenges we may face.
As a firm, we are spearheading a number of public/private initiatives to develop and deploy new solutions, solutions created in acknowledgment of the new opportunity that life outside the EU represents.
One thing is clear. In the words of Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, "if pressed to choose between London, Britain and the UK on the one hand or Brussels, the EU and single market on the other, we know what our choice will be. We will choose our relationship with Britain every time."
Originally published in ISOLAS' Brexit Advisory Group Newsletter - November 2016
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