CM assures Parliament ‘there is no rule book which would prevent Gibraltar negotiating’
Gibraltar will be as involved in the potential negotiations to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union as the home nations, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo yesterday told Parliament.
Mr Picardo made a statement in the House yesterday afternoon, in a break from questions, shortly after his return from London where along with the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, he had held a number of post-Brexit meetings in a period of 48 hours to explore the options open to the Rock to protect Gibraltar’s position and the wishes of the people to remain in the EU.
In every alternative the Government considers, Mr Picardo said, Gibraltar will retain 100% of its British Sovereignty.
“We have a Sovereign. We love our Sovereign. There are no vacancies for a new Sovereign for Gibraltar,” he stated.
The Chief Minister also reported back to MPs on the discussions held with the Minister for Europe David Lidington and with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
He revealed that ‘Greenland-style’ arguments were being explored.
Significantly, he underscored that Gibraltar will not ‘just be consulted’ in the process but will actually be fully involved in the same way as the political leaders of the Home Nations of the United Kingdom.
“The Minister for Europe confirmed to me (on Monday) that Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar will in fact be fully involved in any such process and that we will work in partnership with the United Kingdom to seek to ensure Gibraltar’s interests are protected and advanced.”
“He has agreed to write to me to confirm that position as the settled position of Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom.”
Nonetheless, Mr Picardo reiterated that the Government is exploring all the options available in order to best protect the future position of Gibraltar following the EU referendum.
One of the many avenues we are exploring, he told MPs, involves working with Scotland’s Parliament in order to seek ways to give direct effect to the will of the people of Scotland and Gibraltar who overwhelmingly expressed a desire to remain within the European Union and the Single Market.
Mr Picardo said he had held “very positive” discussions with Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, in this respect. He said: “Ms Sturgeon and I have agreed that we have a common purpose in exploring possibilities which could achieve our common objectives.”
The Scottish Parliament this week supported the First Minister’s motion to explore and pursue these possibilities for Scotland after a debate in which the First Minister confirmed the Gibraltar discussions.
He underscored that their aim will never be to thwart the will of the British people: “We will act to seek to give effect to the will of the British people of Gibraltar as much as to the British people of England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.”
That may give rise to varying degrees of membership of or access to the European Union or the Single Market.
A technical team from Gibraltar will be communicating with the team set up by the Scottish Parliament for the purposes of understanding what the possibilities are, Mr Picardo said, adding that this will no doubt involve seeking fuller understanding of the precedent set by Greenland’s departure from membership of the EEC or European Economic Community, which predates the Treaty of Lisbon and the provisions of Article 50.
“There is no rule book which would prevent Gibraltar negotiating – with the support of the United Kingdom - remaining both 100% British and 100% in the EU or in the Single Market even if the United Kingdom or parts of it were to leave.”
Mr Picardo added that he has been in close contact with the team of the Mayor of London who is seeking also to ensure that he acts to protect the interests of the City of London and all Londoners who also voted to remain in the European Union.
“I expect that we shall be doing some considerable work in the future also with the Mayor’s team going forward,” he said.
Mr Picardo said he expects to work with the Junta also to understand the negative consequences that could arise from a bar to the free movement of people across the frontier with Spain and to prevent any such eventualities from arising, whatever the outcome of a potential United Kingdom notification to withdraw from the EU.
Picardo also welcomed the setting up by the regional government of Andalucia, the Junta de Andalucia, of a working group on Brexit to analyse the potential impact on the region.
Welcomes Junta de Andalucia Brexit working group
“The Spanish and other nationals who are cross frontier workers are very welcome in Gibraltar,” Mr Picardo said.
“Migration is not an issue in Gibraltar as it may have been elsewhere in the United Kingdom. We welcome migration as a cornerstone of our success. Cross frontier workers and those who have moved to Gibraltar from inside or outside the European Union are part of our success,” he said, adding that he wished to continue to see them working alongside Gibraltar for many years.
The Government, Mr Picardo said, is committed to ensuring guaranteed and unhindered access to Gibraltar for them as well as for the businesses and clients of businesses who such workers serve.
“And to achieve that, it is imperative in my view that we remain, as we always have, ready to work with all relevant parties in the United Kingdom and beyond in the context of Gibraltar’s desire to secure its human and business need to retain physical and commercial access to Europe.”
GSD READY TO WORK WITH GOVT
GSD Leader, Daniel Feetham, responding to the Chief Minister’s briefing said the Opposition is “ready, willing and able to be engaged and to work with the Government on behalf of this community and for the benefit of this community.”
He said the Opposition will place the interests of the community over and above its own narrow political interests “every single day of the week” for the sake of generations to come.
“We must get it right,” he said.
Mr Feetham has also written to the Chief Minister on the subject of which mechanism he and the Government can best use for the purpose of acting in a unified manner going forward and giving confidence in Gibraltar. This follows his call, last week, for unity between the Government and the Opposition as Gibraltar faces the consequences of the referendum vote.
“It is Important we do not close the door to any potential way forward that is workable for Gibraltar and delivers the type of access for Gibraltar that we need in relation to the European Union.”
Independent Member of Parliament, Marlene Hassan Nahon, called for unity and said: “I am proud to be part of a people who are united, especially now, a people who know what is good for them, a people who are outward looking; we are not an insular people and we thrive on our acceptance of all cultures and this is a reflection of our maturity as a people as seen in the overwhelming result of our part in the referendum.”