By Philip Vasquez, StretLaw Associate
So, the time has come for me to write my first blog for UniLawStudents. I thought I’d keep it pretty casual today as I’m by the pool…
‘Oscar’ Thanks bit…;)
I’ll firstly like to take the opportunity to thank Gary for getting in contact and getting me involved as an Associate of StretLaw (Employability Specialists), the ‘big sis’ to ULS. My blogs here at ULS and my position as an Associate at StretLaw will be in keeping with the ethos of both organisations. For my blogs I will be drawing from personal experiences which I have accrued throughout my journey of my Law & Sociology (LLB) Degree at Cardiff University and prospectively as from September (subject to passing my final exams) through the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course, the essential post-graduate prerequisite if you want to become a Barrister) at City University, London. I hope I will provide useful insights and advice for law students, and non-law students, who are set to achieve various personal goals whilst studying.
Who am I?
As many people reading this blog will probably have no idea of who I am, I thought I’d take this first blog to allow to introduce myself and what I’ll be writing about. I’m 21, interested in socio-historic, political and legal issues of constitutional importance (to put it quite broadly). I am also a musician, I’m into digital and film photography (owning a few Digital & film SLRs) and I’m quite into my sports (Working out, squash, cricket, sailing, football, rugby etc). I could go into loads of detail about what I like doing in my spare time, but I’ll let you gather more about me through my blogs, or you can just follow me on Twitter @PhilipVasquez.
I’m a little bit different…
What makes me a bit different from other law student bloggers might be the fact that I’m not from the UK but I’m still British (I can see frowns of confusion!). Spanish is also my second language (but I’m not Spanish!). This means that I live and study in the UK but I live at home during the summer. As I write this I’m by a pool in Sotogrande, Spain, only a 30 minute drive from my home in Gibraltar. If you haven’t heard about Gibraltar, well it is a small peninsular with only 6.8 square kilometres of land mass attached to the European continent on the very southern tip of Spain via a narrow lying isthmus.
Gibraltar has been British for over 300 years since it was captured by Anglo-Dutch forces in 1704 and officially ceded by Spain to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Gibraltar’s present estimated population of 30,000 has since been subject to continual political aggression from Spain, reaching a notable apex between 1969 and 1982 where Spain had closed Gibraltar’s only land frontier to mainland Europe as well as severing all communications and trade links via mainland Europe. Today the physical divide in nations is sharply demarcated by a fence about 7 feet high, topped with mean barbed wire. The border was opened partially to pedestrians in 1982, and fully to vehicles by 1985 but notwithstanding the reopening of the frontier, the border is continually a source of political tensions. This results in a perpetuation of strengthened and conflicting local identities between both Gibraltarians and Spaniards.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Gibraltar, I will be publishing a sociology essay later this summer via Cardiff University, discussing Gibraltarian culture and identity in relation to the frontier with Spain. But, as law students, some of you might be wondering ‘how can a physical frontier exist between two European Nations? Wouldn’t that be a breach of Art 26 TFEU?’ You’d be right to ask such questions, as the existence of physical barriers to trade and free movement principles of the EU are against the Schengen agreement and fundamental aspects of the EU today.
A straight answer to your question would be that Gibraltar is a member of the EU, but it is not a member of the Customs Union. Therefore, Gibraltar is not subject to the strict barriers of the free movements principle of the EU. Therefore, as you may have guessed by now, this means that Gibraltar doesn’t pay VAT. Instead, here in Gibraltar we set our own import duty rates (Breach of Article 28 / 30 TFEU? Nah… we’re not part of that, either 😉 ) and Corporation tax is only at 10%. If you think this is interesting, I plan to touch upon Gib’s unique trading and taxation systems in upcoming blogs. It is however due to Gib’s fairly unique laws which have got me interested in legal issues.
Strangely, the story of where I’m from and my identity have a considerable play in my outlook on things. Gibraltar’s history and culture also tell a continuing story of the success of perseverance, in David and Goliath proportions. Most recently for example, Gibraltar has finally been admitted into UEFA, following an ongoing struggle against Spain’s political veto in involving Gibraltar in European Football, at the Courts of Arbitration.
Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on enough about Gibraltar for now. The reason why I’ve introduced all of this is because many of my blogs will involve some element of Gibraltar law over the next few months, as I will be back home for the rest of the summer. Over the next few months apart from these blogs, I also have a few personal projects planned which involve writing and publishing, one of these projects includes my involvement as president of the Gibraltar Law Students Association. Also, In August I will also be doing a month’s work experience at a local law firm which I look forward to be writing about.
Thirty Park Place, Chambers
I hope this has served as a good introduction to the large amount of blogs you will be receiving from me. My next blog will involve a lunch I had arranged with barrister David Hughes of Thirty Park Place, Cardiff. David has previously practised in Gibraltar and honed his advocacy in a number of public and constitutional cases. Having read about his involvement at the Gibraltar bar, his enthusiasm for Gibraltarian politics and the fact that he is presently practising in Cardiff, I felt compelled to try to meet up with him to discuss some ideas and fire some questions. Fortunately, he was kind enough to accept a quick and interesting lunch at Café 37.
Taking the Bull by the Horns
A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to email a barrister who I don’t know, to go for lunch. Most people probably wouldn’t do it, but no one’s going to hold your hand and give you everything you want in life, you’ve got to do the legwork. You’ve got to be bold sometimes to get what you want in the long run, and you’ll probably need to do things others probably won’t (because they may have the connections) or they probably would not be willing to do (because they’re not committed enough).
Don’t set yourself limits… go and try and get what you want, who is anyone to tell you otherwise?
See you soon, my beer is getting too warm!
© Philip Vasquez, 2013