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Azopardi hits back over ‘scandalous’ Andorra meme

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, delivering his Budget address.

Keith Azopardi hit back after Chief Minister Fabian Picardo tweeted a meme showing the Leader of the Opposition alongside the slogan ‘Vote GSD, get Andorra’.

Mr Azopardi said the meme was “untrue, offensive and heavily manufactured”, dismissing any suggestion the GSD was soft on Spain and describing himself as “a hawk”.

This was the latest exchange in a row after the GSD said it would seek to form a joint cross-party treaty negotiating team if elected into government, only for the Chief Minister to state he would never accept that.

Pointing to a book published by Mr Azopardi over a decade ago, Mr Picardo said he could never negotiate alongside someone who believed a so-called Andorra solution would not mean joint sovereignty. Spain would see that as a weakness, the Chief Minister said.

But for the Leader of the Opposition, the meme was “scandalous” and “downright fiction”, a “patent lie” designed to distract attention from serious domestic issues.

“Mr Picardo has known me for 30 years and knows what my politics is,” said Keith Azopadri, the Leader of the Opposition.

“He knows that I am a hawk on foreign affairs.”

“But that’s how desperate he is clearly.”

Mr Azopardi said the GSD had defended Gibraltar before and would do so again.

He said he and Sir Peter Caruana stood shoulder to shoulder defeating the joint sovereignty bid in 2002.

He again insisted that the GSD had a “competent team” to continue the Brexit negotiations to a safe and beneficial conclusion.

“If Mr Picardo wants to be churlish and not help Gibraltar when asked or if he wants to lie along the way to desperately try to cling on to power, so be it,” Mr Azopardi said.

“The electorate can judge him when the moment comes.”

Mr Azopardi said it was “remarkable” that Mr Picardo should quote “out of context” a legal analysis on post 1993 independent Andorra that was published 14 years ago and after his PhD.

That work was supervised and audited by renowned professors of international law, Mr Azopardi said.

It was subsequently published by a prestigious legal publishing firm in Oxford with an independent editorial board of legal experts.

Mr Azopardi said the central argument in his book is that the sovereignty of Gibraltar resides in the people of Gibraltar – “a theory that I passionately believe today”.

The book advocated for the abandonment by Spain of the claim to Gibraltar’s sovereignty because it was an antiquated sovereignty position out of place with modern principles.

At its core, the book was about making the legal case that under modern sovereignty principles it is the people of Gibraltar who truly are sovereign.

In the introduction Mr Azopardi wrote: “If it were ever possible to condense any book into one sentence, fundamentally, this work is about how the sovereignty of Gibraltar has shifted towards its people and the management of the relationship with the States that dance around this Mediterranean constitutional space.”

He added in the conclusion that if there was international acceptance of the “sovereign stateless nation of Gibraltar….the collective human rights of the people of Gibraltar will have converged with the sovereignty they hold.”

Mr Azopardi was reacting to the suggestion by Mr Picardo that Mr Azopardi’s view that an Andorra solution was no joint sovereignty could be exploited by Spanish negotiators.

“I have no doubt that if they had bothered to look into those arguments Spain would know me as a strong proponent of the sovereign rights of our people,” Mr Azopardi said.

“They would also know me as a member of the GSD Government that defeated joint sovereignty.”

“Mr Picardo knows all of this and has known about this for years. He acquired a copy of my book in 2009.”

“It’s frankly repugnant that he contorts the arguments in this way and is prepared to lie to the people of Gibraltar. It shows how desperate he is to hang on to power.”

Mr Azopardi said that years after his book was published, Mr Picardo instructed him to advise the Government on constitutional reform and on certain Brexit issues following the Brexit referendum.

“I can’t have been so unsafe a pair of hands on these difficult questions affecting Gibraltar’s future,” he said.

“Of course, all that was between 2014-2017 and before I became GSD leader but it was years after my book was published which in any event as he well knows argues that the sovereignty of Gibraltar vests in its people.”

“The only thing that has changed since then is that I’m now GSD leader and it’s convenient to spin this false narrative.”

“Partly because he doesn’t know how else to get out of our offer that he should join a negotiating team on Brexit and partly because he wants to distract from domestic failings.”

“Or is it that he’ll only sit next to me if he’s the Chief Minister? He needs to get real.”

“All that Mr Picardo is doing is playing the old and tired card of trashing GSD leaders on the issue of Spain when they’ve nothing else to say and doing so on a manufactured basis.”

Mr Azopardi said a similar tactic was used against Sir Peter Caruana in 1996 and again in 2011 on the subject of Andorra.

“In further proof that when Mr Picardo trashes a GSD leader for being unreliable on sovereignty it is just a false narrative, he has gone on to instruct Sir Peter Caruana to provide him an opinion on sovereignty in the context of the Tax Treaty,” Mr Azopardi said.

“Mr Picardo can’t be believed. His accusations are all hollow and he knows it.”

“His “Vote GSD Get Andorra” meme is untrue, offensive and heavily manufactured.”

“It is not GSD policy to do anything other than retain our British sovereignty and our links with the British crown. Anything else is nonsense and Mr Picardo knows it.”

“We refuse to have a campaign on a false premise. Let’s talk about the real issues and not the ones that Mr Picardo wished he was facing.”

“First that he shamelessly will not work with a future GSD government on Brexit issues putting his petty interests over those of Gibraltar.”

“That is an unforgivable disgrace but characteristic of his and the GSLP tribal approach to politics.”

“Secondly that it is a desperate desire to distract from domestic issues that are festering to the huge dissatisfaction of the electorate; public services reforms; transparency and accountability; his big breach on debt; failures to account for hundreds of millions of pounds and tolerance of an opaque jungle of companies.”

“We will tear down opaque and unnecessary structures and account to people for the use of their money.”

“We will investigate and audit these companies. There will be no hiding place.”

“Change will bring the end of the opaque current regime of do as you please with the people’s money.”

“Additionally, none of his desperate attempt can mask the failures, missed opportunities and concessions of Mr Picardo over the last seven years.”

“A failure to land a safe and beneficial agreement despite the bluster of expectations.”

“The missed opportunities of having not secured lasting enduring rights for residents of Gibraltar when rights were given to 15000 frontier workers and the concessions of a permanent, shoddy and harmful tax treaty that was sold here four years ago before the last election on the basis that we would be taken off the Spanish blacklist within two years.”

“Four years on we are still on the Spanish blacklist.”

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