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CM reflects on complexity of treaty negotiation

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo on Friday underscored the complexity of the final stages of the negotiation for a UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar, insisting a great prize” was within reach if negotiators could “square the circle” of plugging Gibraltar into EU structures.

He was speaking after Thursday’s high-level meeting in Brussels with British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares and European Commission vice president and lead negotiator Maroš Šefčovič.

Despite wide expectation of a breakthrough, there was no final agreement in the talks although negotiators pointed to “important breakthroughs” and a “constructive atmosphere”, as well as a continued shared commitment to finalise a treaty. They vowed to continue negotiating in the coming days.

“This is not just a negotiation that has been protracted because the parties are taking intransigent positions,” Mr Picardo told GBC.

“We might have all got up off the table if that were the case.”

“This is all of the parties genuinely seeing that there are issues that need to be resolved and more issues come up as we resolve other issues.”

Mr Picardo was echoing the words of Mr Šefčovič, who on Thursday night told reporters the negotiation was both “very political” and “extremely technical” in some areas.

“We have to combine, I would say, the political will to find an agreement to look for the best possible compromises, with the technical capacities and technical solutions which we need to develop,” he said.

“We need to work at both the political level to provide the steer, to show the political leadership on these issues, and have very strong support by our technical teams that what we agreed will be then, of course, implementable and be technically feasible.”

On Friday, repeating an analogy he has used in the past, Mr Picardo said it was like “going through one door to find 1000 doors in the next room”.

“And this is because of the complexity of the legal structures that Gibraltar is plugging into in the context of the free movement of goods, in the context of fluidity of people, in the context of transport, in particular in air travel,” the Chief `Minister said.

“But the whole purpose of continuing is because the potential prize is one which is a good one for Gibraltar, in particular as an alternative to not having a negotiated outcome.”

While Gibraltar had worked with the UK on contingency plans in the event there was no deal, “that is to mitigate effects”.

“The alternative here is that the negotiated outcome leads to greater opportunities, at least to, in a period, reset the Gibraltar economy in some way if necessary,” Mr Picardo said.

“So there is a great prize here, if we can ensure that we square the circle.”

“That's why we're all working so hard, that's why we're seeing everybody so engaged, because the benefits, I think, would be worth doing, and that's why I continue to be engaged.”

“Nobody should think that the Government of Gibraltar would continue engaged in a process that was going to be bad for Gibraltar, either economically, socially or politically.”

“That would of course not be the case. I wouldn't be wasting my time in doing something that's going to be bad for us.”

And he added: “If you've been elected to represent the people of Gibraltar and to look after their interests and the interests of current and future generations, you have to stay at the table and you have to work hard and you have to ask your fellow Gibraltarians to respect the fact that the work that you're doing is serious and difficult.”

“And that if you could tell them more, you would tell them more at this stage.”

In another development on Friday, Mr Albares held a virtual meeting with Campo mayors, who he had met in person on Monday ahead of the Brussels summit.

Mr Albares updated the mayors on the outcome of Thursday’s meeting, a move that was welcomed despite calls – particularly from the opposition Partido Popular – for more transparency on the detail of the agreement under negotiation.

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