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Alliance claims GSD ‘U-turn’ on Brexit policy

The GSLP/Liberals yesterday accused the GSD of a U-turn on its views on the Brexit Memorandums of Understanding and the tax treaty.

While setting out the Alliance’s policies on Brexit, GSLP leader Fabian Picardo and Liberal Party leader Dr Joseph Garcia accused the GSD of being “dangerous and irresponsible”.

In its policies on Brexit, the GSD said it is opposed to the four Memorandums of Understandings negotiated between Gibraltar and Spain and will also seek to terminate the tax treaty.

The party has consistently argued that the agreements are harmful to Gibraltar and give Spain a say in Gibraltar’s affairs in a way that has not existed before.

But on a GBC debate on Monday night, GSD candidate Damon Bossino told Gibraltar’s editors his party will be willing to accept them if a Brexit deal is reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union and a transition period follows.

Mr Bossino said these negotiations could have instead been “used as leverage and the perfect opportunity” for Gibraltar to negotiate the movement of people other than cross-frontier workers which was already covered by Spain.

Mr Bossino said it is the GSD leader Keith Azopardi’s position that Gibraltar would benefit from a “backstop” agreement on freedom of movement across the border.

“What we say is that a deal is better than none,” Mr Bossino said.

“We would accept, if we were elected into government, the MoUs as they currently stand should the Withdrawal Agreement be passed or approved or should there be a deal of sorts.”

With reference to the tax treaty, Mr Bossino accepted that it is linked to the Withdrawal Agreement.

He said that in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, the GSD will accept the tax treaty until the end of the transition period until December 2020, but going forward, the party would want to “terminate” the treaty after that.

For the Alliance, Mr Bossino’s comments represented a significant shift in position by the GSD.

At a press conference yesterday Mr Picardo said: “The U-turn performed by the GSD’s Damon Bossino on [Monday] night in GBC’s Meet the Media is the most dramatic change of position on any subject that Gibraltar has ever seen.”

“To see such a change of position barely 48 hours before the polls open on the most fundamental issue in this election is a dramatic admission of the GSD’s failure to understand Brexit.”

“Let’s be clear, as recently as two weeks ago the GSD were saying in their manifesto that they would scrap our tax agreement, now they are saying they will keep it.”

“That is a total pirouette on a fundamental issue that is facing our people and this is not what serious politics is about,” Mr Picardo said.

“We are dealing with the livelihoods of people who work in this community, the lives of Gibraltarians in this community… and 48 hours before the poll he changes the key policy on the most fundamental issue facing this community.”

“This is the time for serious politics.”

Mr Picardo said that his party has ensured it has done all the work to make Gibraltar “as Brexit-proof as possible” while in Government.

Mr Picardo told reporters every single minister in his cabinet has been involved with matters on Brexit for the past three years, on areas such as health, the environment, civil rights, employment and so much more.

If elected back into government on Thursday, Mr Picardo and Dr Garcia said they will be available in No.6 Convent Place around the clock for five consecutive days in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
This is to ensure that Gibraltar is kept “safe, ready and secure” for all eventualities, Mr Picardo said.

Dr Garcia said this is the most important election for Gibraltar, adding: “Brexit is absolutely fundamental and it goes to the way because of how we have conducted our affairs for many years since 1973.”

“It is taking place against an uncertain background and we have to keep planning for changes.”

Dr Garcia disagreed with GSD candidate Elliott’s Phillips statements on Monday night’s show and said they have met with the Brexit Select Committee on more than 20 occasions.

He said his party has been “prudent, sensible and methodical” in disseminating information to the public on Brexit.

And as the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to go to Brussels on Thursday for the crucial two-day summit for what may be the last such meeting currently scheduled before the Brexit deadline, the uncertainty for Gibraltar and the incumbent government continues.

The new government will have to await the outcome of the special sitting of Parliament in the UK on Saturday.

Even though October 31 is set as the deadline, the incoming Gibraltar Government will be voted into power not yet knowing what position the UK government has taken on Brexit.