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CM remains ‘confident of route to treaty’

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Government is “resolute” in defence of Gibraltar’s fundamentals but “pragmatic” in its approach to the final stage of the negotiation for a treaty on the Rock’s post-Brexit relations with the EU, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said on Monday.

Speaking during a New Year message broadcast on GBC, Mr Picardo underscored the complexity of the negotiation and it was “insincere” to suggest a safe and secure deal could have been negotiated quicker.

And while he remained “confident of a route to a treaty”, he said any agreement “might be initially uncomfortable” in some areas, but that no deal would be “very comfortable”.

“We will continue to work night and day for a deal and we will not accept concession on fundamentals,” Mr Picardo said.

“Similarly, if there is no deal for reasons we cannot control, I assure you we will be ready to mitigate such an outcome.”

“But that does not mean that we will be able to deliver pre-Brexit normality in a ‘no deal’, post-Brexit situation.”

“But I can also tell you that I remain confident that there is a route to a treaty which does not require us to concede on fundamentals.”

“An agreement might initially be uncomfortable in some areas.”

“Much change is, even if simply because it will be different.”

“Just like signing up to membership of the EU might initially have felt uncomfortable in 1972.”

“But ‘No Deal’ will also be very uncomfortable.”

“Remember that when we were members of the EU the Union had the power of direct rule in Gibraltar.”

“EU Decisions and Regulations had immediate and direct effect in Gibraltar. EU Directives also had to be transposed. 96% of us voted to remain in that relationship with the EU.”

“What we are now negotiating are arrangements only for immigration and movement of goods.”

“These require an element of agreement on standards in those and related areas.”

“The positive effect would be to deliver greater liberty than ever to move through Europe’s Schengen Zone and greater ease to buy and sell into the EU’s Single European market.”

“But we will not be members of the EU subject to all its rules and the direct effect of all of its decisions and regulations as we were for almost 50 years.”

“So, if we reach agreement, as I believe we will, it will be an agreement that is safe and that will be secure.”

“And it will not in any way affect our exclusively British sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over Gibraltar.”

“In fact, the reality is that Gibraltar is now irreversibly British. Our British nature and nurture is embedded in each of us.”

“The work we are doing for a treaty will not change that, our Constitution or our sovereignty or the sovereignty of any part of our precious Gibraltar’s land, sea or air.”

Mr Picardo said the deal that was being negotiated was “massively complex”, covering everything from product labelling to the taxation of goods, and will likely run to “100s of pages”.

“We have to get every aspect right to ensure that there are no negative consequences for our economy or our autonomy,” he said.

“So, our approach to the negotiations is to remain positive and strategic.”

“We are looking well beyond just the year ahead.”

“We are resolute in our defence of our fundamentals but pragmatic in our approach to areas where we can see benefits for our people and our economy.”

“We are always looking forward at how best we can deliver success for you, our people and our economy.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Picardo also sought to rebut Opposition criticism of his government’s handling of public finances, insisting the GSLP/Liberals had delivered “real and lasting change”.

He highlighted by way of example investment in schools, mental health facilities and the Primary Care Centre, as well as affordable housing.

“Any criticism of our public finances which ignores the effect of the pandemic or the huge inflationary pressures created by the war in Ukraine is dishonest and lacking in substance,” he said.

“Criticism of my Government's management of the public finances that pretends that the financial impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine is anything but severe, is deluded and dangerously cynical.”

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