EU parliament hears contrasting views on Gibraltar and Brexit
Gibraltar and Scotland set out their positions on Brexit during submissions to an influential committee in the European Parliament yesterday, explaining their hopes to maintain certain EU freedoms but drawing a scathing response from a Partido Popular MEP, who insisted there was no scope for a differentiated deal.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told the Select Committee for Constitutional Affairs that Gibraltar’s situation “is unique and cannot be overlooked” in the process of the Brexit negotiation.
Having set out the economic and social relationship between the Rock and its Spanish hinterland, he said finding a way to maintain frontier fluidity would benefit communities on either side of the border.
Gibraltar, he told MEPs, would consider “any reasonable solution” to safeguard border flow.
Mr Picardo also highlighted the importance of access to the single market in services, adding this represented 10% of Gibraltar’s financial business.
“Gibraltar has always had a different status in the EU to the UK and in so far as the remaining member states agree and Gibraltar wishes, we should be able to enjoy any opt in or make other realistically and geographically sensible arrangements,” he said.
“That should be agreed in order to secure the best co-operation and neighbourly relations with the nations that surround us, namely Spain and Morocco.”
“Common sense must prevail.”
Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government minister responsible for external affairs, told the committee that Scotland too wanted a “differentiated solution” that would allow freedom of movement and access to the single market.
She acknowledged that such a solution would present complex legal and constitutional challenges, but insisted these could be overcome “with political will to make it work”.
Echoing a similar message to Mr Picardo, she added: “Please do not turn your back on Scotland. Now is the time to show solidarity with a nation that voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.”
But there was little sympathy from Esteban González Pons, the spokesman for the Partido Popular in the European Parliament. He was sitting just a few metres from the speakers and addressed Mr Picardo and Mrs Hyslop directly.
“Let us not kid ourselves: Brexit is Brexit,” he told them.
“If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, all the components of the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.”
“There is no possibility after Brexit of maintaining [access] to the single market or the free movement of people if it is not for the whole of the United Kingdom.”
“Let us not kid the population of any part of the United Kingdom with the possibility of other solutions that are unacceptable for the European Union.”
“You cannot be a part member of the European Union, or a member in the morning but not in the afternoon.”
“You are either a member of the European Union, or you are not.”
“If today we start to accept ‘a la carte’ solutions, it will be the beginning of the end of the European Union.”
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