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Exchanges continue over Govt Brexit strategy

The Gibraltar Government has said GSD Leader Keith Azopardi needs to be careful that his Brexit commentary does not undermine the wider interests of Gibraltar.

This comes amid a row between Government and Opposition over the former’s Brexit strategy as well as repeated calls from the GSD for the people of Gibraltar should be informed as to what is being discussed with Spain as part of the EU withdrawal negotiations.

Government and Opposition have exchanged seven statements on the subject since the GSD hosted a press conference on the subject last week.

According to the Government, Mr Azopardi “gives the impression of failing to understand that in his present position he does not represent the people of Gibraltar in any way”.

“Unlike his colleagues, he is not an elected Member of Parliament,” the Government said in a statement yesterday.

“The notion that the Opposition should be involved in the discussions with the United Kingdom is very peculiar,” it said adding that this is not something that the United Kingdom itself is doing.

But the Government’s remarks prompted a further salvo from the GSD.

Hitting back, the GSD said the Government continues the misinformation in respect of the briefings it is giving the Opposition.
“That is a red herring,” it said in a statement.

Reiterating the point it has been making for the past few days, the GSD said the Government should inform the public what subject areas are under discussion.

“Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy told the press on Friday that Spain wants to discuss the airport, fisheries, the environment, tobacco and fiscal matters,” the GSD said.

“The Government has, so far, refused and still refuses to confirm to the public what it is actually discussing.”

“That is the central point and there is no escape from that reality.”

The GSD questioned what confidences are going to be breached by the Government if it were to confirm to the people of Gibraltar the subjects that are under discussion with Spain.

This follows the speech given by the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo setting out the Government’s analysis of the EU Withdrawal Agreement at the GFSB dinner.

In his speech Mr Picardo said the Government has been very clear, and very public, about its Brexit Strategy and its objectives in the Brexit negotiations.

“Indeed, by the autumn of 2016, and after several months of very hard work following the referendum result in June 2016, the Government knew what its Brexit Strategy was,” he said.

“I made our objectives public in the evidence I gave to the House of Lords EU Committee on 13 December 2016, in the evidence I gave to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Exiting the EU on 25 January 2017 and in the further evidence I gave to the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs on 30 January 2017.”

Reiterating the Government’s position he said, “We have worked and have now delivered the maintenance and, where possible, enhancement of our trading relationship with the UK.”

“With regard to the EU, a satisfactory solution for the Border, maintenance of the status quo in relation to trade in goods and to form part of the eventual UK-EU Agreement in relation to services.”

“Once Brexit occurs in full, to form part of the new trade agreements that the UK will enter into with third countries,” he added.

The GSD, however, stated that this analysis is flawed in one important respect.

The GSD also stated that given the importance of this issue to Gibraltar it would not, at this stage, set out publicly why it considers this is so.

“If it becomes necessary to do so in the public interest then we would reconsider the position.”

“Instead, we said that GSD Leader, Keith Azopardi, would write to the Chief Minister in coming days to set this out so it can assist Government in its own consideration of matters and as it plans its negotiating strategy over coming months,” the GSD said.

“This was a responsible and measured response by the GSD.”

In yet another salvo issued yesterday evening the Government said it regrets that the GSD “continue to play negative politics with Brexit even though this is an issue of fundamental importance to Gibraltar.”

“The plain fact is that their latest statement offers nothing new and demonstrates only a desire to stir up mischief in the mistaken belief that this will make life difficult for the Government,” the statement read.

The people of Gibraltar can see that the Government have left no stone unturned in the defence of Gibraltar and its people as we prepare to leave the European Union, it added.

The Government reiterated that Members of the Brexit Select Committee have been briefed ten times on the detail of developments behind the scenes.

It added: “There were no such briefings given to the then Opposition at the time of the Córdoba Agreements where the then Government presented a fait accompli at the end of the process and stressed that no cherry-picking would be allowed.”
“Mr Azopardi was not even in the GSD at the time.”

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