"Good evening, for many of us, today has been the first full day back at work. Our children are now back at school. And as we reflect on the year that has passed, most have once again in 2017 enjoyed a peaceful and plentiful Christmas feast."
"That is the fruit of the prosperity we all work so hard to generate throughout the year. Our Jewish brethren have enjoyed a similar Hannukah.
Our Hindu brethren their peaceful and plentiful Diwali.
And our Muslim brethren a similar Eid Mubarak earlier in the year.
If only others beyond our shores could learn from our respect for each other's cultures and creeds, the world might be an even better place for the rest of the 21st century.
We bring that hard work and respect for others to the work we are doing in the negotiations for the United Kingdom and Gibraltar to leave the European Union.
We have already dealt politically with the many issues that arise in respect of our withdrawal from the EU.
Now we must deal with the issues that arise in respect of any transitional period for our withdrawal and the application to Gibraltar of any relevant aspects of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
In order to successfully address the many issues that will arise in this respect, we must ask ourselves, in light of the reality of Brexit:
What relationship do we want with the European Union in the future?
What will work best for Gibraltar?
What do we want to achieve for our children?
We must make the choices that secure the best ‐ exclusively British ‐ Gibraltar that we can for our collective futures.
We must look over and beyond the horizon.
Our sights must be set beyond today and tomorrow.
For us, the parents of the next generations of Gibraltarians, it's not about this week or next.
It's about setting Gibraltar up for the next fifty years of Gibraltarian success and prosperity.
It’s about giving our children the benefits and tools we have had.
It’s about everything we do today making tomorrow better for them.
And in so doing, we will secure for our future generations a Gibraltar that is a thriving, socio‐ economic success for the first half of this twenty first century.
We will achieve that goal drawing on the courage and determination of the Evacuation Generation of the 1940's.
With the grit and tenacity of the Referendum Generation of the 1960s.
And with the energy, enterprise and the drive of this, the Brexit Generation
And as we have done before in our history, we must work in partnership with the United Kingdom.
Despite that, on the occasions where we have disagreed with the UK, we have fought Gibraltar’s corner as you would expect us to:
With facts, with logic and with passion.
And, as a result, we have built a strong political relationship with Prime Minister May's government.
Mrs May herself told us on National Day that the UK will resolutely safeguard our economy.
We have a cast iron commitment from Secretary of State David Davis that the United Kingdom government will not do a future trade deal with the EU if it did not include Gibraltar.
And there is the guarantee, of course, to observe the double lock on sovereignty ‐ not only not to transfer it against our wishes, but not to even start any process of negotiation without our consent, which will never be forthcoming.
Indeed, as a result, you will see that there is a golden thread running through the various cumulative undertakings that we have secured from the United Kingdom.
A golden thread that admits of no conclusion other than that Gibraltar cannot legitimately be excluded from any UK transitional period or any relevant aspects of any future trade deal or deals with the European Union.
That is why we are, genuinely, fully involved in all aspects of the Brexit process which involve Gibraltar.
In fact, it could not be otherwise.
Section 47(3) of the Gibraltar Constitution provides that, "[W]ithout prejudice to the United Kingdom’s responsibility for Gibraltar’s compliance with European Union law, matters which under [the] Constitution are the responsibility of Ministers [do] not cease to be so even though they arise in the context of the European Union."
We are, therefore, firmly in the Brexit driving seat for Gibraltar.
And we have already made clear that we are ready to engage in productive technical talks with all relevant parties, from all relevant Member States or EU Institution, in a spirit of cooperation, in order to ensure that Gibraltar residents, tourists and cross‐frontier workers can all continue to go about their business.
But let us be clear: in respect of all aspects of how Gibraltar’s withdrawal, transition and future relationship with the EU develops, we will have the crucial veto ourselves.
Indeed, this should be clear to the whole of the European Union and the United Kingdom.
As should the potential consequences for some EU nationals of a premature or disorderly Brexit by Gibraltar.
For that reason, the importance of the Gibraltar Parliament in this process must not be underestimated.
And each of the Members of our Parliament will play a role in determining how Gibraltar transposes any aspects of the final withdrawal, transition and future arrangements and any legislation required to give effect to these arrangements.
The debate will be in our Parliament.
For, in Gibraltar, Parliament will be the place where the final decision is made on the implementation of Brexit in Gibraltar.
It is in our Parliament that your elected Parliamentarians and your Government will address the most important legislative decisions about the final shape of Brexit for Gibraltar.
In fact, you may recall that when the Brexit process first begun, some press reports suggested that Gibraltar would not be included in the “withdrawal agreement.”
Well, Gibraltar is now recognised a part of the political agreement recently done on withdrawal.
So, when it comes to some of the statements which we have recently heard in relation to vetoes held by others or our exclusion from transitional or future agreements, I think the wisest course is to await the final outcome of negotiations.
We must give no credence to premature triumphalism.
And we must pay no heed to the siren calls of those who seek to undermine us.
What we must also realise is just how much is now already secured.
The Gibraltar Brexit Team is led by me alongside the resolute and determined Deputy Chief Minister, Joseph Garcia.
We have already secured the UK commit that its “unshakeable objective is to secure for Gibraltar the seamless continuation of existing market access to the UK, and to enhance it where possible”
Given that 90% of our financial services trade is with the United Kingdom, securing this access has been a crucial and decisive success that will deliver potentially huge economic benefits going forward.
This success means that Gibraltar will retain its attraction as a highly regulated, highly reputable and highly desirable place from which to do business with the United Kingdom.
Indeed, some companies are already relocating to Gibraltar based on this guarantee.
Yet part of the work we are doing is also to shoulder responsibility to plan for any potential contingencies that may arise as a result of our departure from the EU.
We feel that responsibility acutely.
As a result, a lot of work is going into ensuring that our lives will be unaffected, whatever the future relationship between the UK and the EU may finally be.
But Brexit has not been the only area of activity in the past year.
We are delivering on all our other manifesto commitments – despite Brexit – because the Government I lead is not a one man band.
It is a cabinet team of dedicated ministers acting in a collegiate manner alongside the Deputy Chief Minister and I.
As a result, Gibraltar has not been paralysed by Brexit. Far from it.
Joseph Garcia has continued his tenacious and effective international political lobbying, extending further into Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and now the wider Commonwealth.
Albert Isola has continued to develop the financial services and gaming products offered by Gibraltar. We have more large players in insurance and gaming than ever before. And we have pioneered in the Fintech space, with our work in licensing and regulation of DLT/Blockchain being ahead of the whole of the rest of the world. That is an incredible achievement.
John Cortes is delivering on new schools, with an investment in education probably without equal in the western world as a ratio of GDP. John is also delivering on the new power station and LNG plant that will finally provide the modern security of supply our economy needs and will allow us to shut down the more polluting generators we rely on today. All this alongside renewable energy innovations and work on the sewage treatment plant. An incredible programme of work led by a man of undoubted commitment to our environment.
Steven Linares is delivering our commitment to host the 2019 Island Games as well as creating magnificent new sporting facilities which will endure for the benefit of all our community long after the games are over. As a result of this work, our legacy for all sports will be without rival in our history. And culturally, Gibraltar is more vibrant than ever before.
Gilbert Licudi is presiding over the lowest rates of unemployment in our history, with numbers consistently well below one hundred. He has immediately acted to increase flights to Gibraltar after the Monarch collapse and is developing a port strategy as an important part of our post‐ Brexit contingency operations.
Samantha Sacramento is delivering on our commitments on housing and equality. Already she has started the work on determining the right composition of the flats to be offered for sale in the three new residential estates on which work will commence this year; as well as continuing the work of reducing rent arears in rental stock. And in the area of equality, Samantha continues to do the trailblazing work that has seen us revolutionise and modernise attitudes since our election six years ago.
Neil Costa is energetically and effectively driving the continued reform of the Gibraltar Health Authority commenced when we were first elected in 2011 and which is starting to bear fruit. 2017 saw us finally open the magnificent Hillsides Alzheimer’s as well as the Dementia residential facility and the Bella Vista Day Centre which helps those suffering from earlier stages of those cruel diseases as well as the families of the service users. These have been transformational changes in the care provided to the elderly in our community. Already Matrons are back on our wards at St Bernard’s Hospital and I expect we will jointly be making more exciting announcements this month about the next stage in the development of our health services. Neil is also rightly concentrating his work Ministry of Justice on delivering legal assistance reform.
Paul Balban is reforming transport in Gibraltar, with neighbourhood and public parking initiatives which work. He is implementing the long terms strategic plan on traffic management and leading on infrastructure planning, a less visible but equally important part of the work we do for you as ministers.
And, of course, Sir Joe Bossano, is continuing his life’s work in the economic development of Gibraltar, the nation to which he has dedicated his whole career. In the six years since we have been in office, as a result of Sir Joe’s work, we have exceeded his own predictions for our economic growth.
Thirty years ago, in 1988, Sir Joe Bossano became Chief Minister of Gibraltar and led an economic revolution. The work he started in the TGWU by delivering parity of wages with the United Kingdom, he continued in Government by repositioning the Gibraltar economy away from MOD spending and UK government grants. He continues that work today in a Government that will reposition Gibraltar for economic success after we relinquish membership of the European Union.
That means 2018 will therefore undoubtedly be another year of hard work.
But it will also undoubtedly be another year of continued growth and success for Gibraltar. Another year in which, together, we will further strengthen our nation.
With Pride in what we do.
And with humility and magnanimity in our achievements as a people.
And so, as we start the work of this final year before we leave the European Union, on behalf of my wife Justine and our three children.
And on behalf of all of my ministerial colleagues and their families.
Let me wish you all a very healthy, happy and prosperous 2018.
Thank you for listening. Goodnight."