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Franco slams Spanish Govt and vows to face up to ‘Brexit tsunami’

by Brian Reyes and Maria Jesus Corrales

La Linea mayor Juan Franco vowed yesterday to face up to “the Brexit tsunami” as he renewed his criticism of the Spanish Government for “failing” to deliver specific measures for the border city.

In robust statements to journalists, Sr Franco said Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis had done nothing to ease La Linea’s fears about the impact of Brexit on cross-border workers and the city’s economy.

The mayor, whose grassroots party La Linea 100x100 governs the city council in partnership with the Partido Popular, said he felt “deceived and defrauded” by the position of the Spanish Government, which had announced infrastructure projects for the Campo but nothing earmarked specifically for La Linea.

The fallout from the visit has caused a deep rift between La Linea 100x100 and the PP, with other parties including Podemos calling for Sr Franco to break the partnership.

It has also caused tension between La Linea’s city council and the PP-governed Mancomunidad de Municipios, which brings together the Campo municipalities.

Sr Franco insisted yesterday that the Mancomunidad was focused on different interests and “does not represent La Linea or its city council” in the context of Brexit.

He also said he believed the central government was more concerned about its co-sovereignty proposal than the livelihood of La Linea’s citizens.

“The consequences of Brexit are real and certain for this municipality,” Sr Franco said.

“We are not going to stand still waiting to be hit by a 20-metre tsunami.”

“We will do whatever we have to do.”

“Perhaps we will go down in history as the group that was ignored or which didn’t know how to manage this, but we will not be remembered as the group that was complicit in another 1969.”

Sr Franco said La Linea was once again becoming “the victim of Spanish Government policies” toward Gibraltar.

“We will fight to the end [and] I will not permit or tolerate it,” he added.

“It will be over my dead body.”

Sr Franco will meet officials from the PSOE-run Junta de Andalucia later this week and has also convened a meeting of council party representatives to review the situation.

Yesterday he said he would continue to work to convince officials at regional and national level that La Linea’s circumstances were unique and required a bespoke response.

“We have an enormous problem in La Linea and I am trying to get people to realise that, but no one is listening to us,” he said.

“We have tabled a series of initiatives but the government should be leading on this, not us.”

The PSOE spokesman for La Linea, Miguel Tornay, backed the mayor and urged Sr Franco de “remain firm” in his position.

“The minister’s visit has been an enormous letdown and has generated a lot of frustration because it created false expectations,” he said.

“The government is ignoring the magnitude of the disaster that is heading our way.”

“If [Sr Franco] remains firm in his position, we will reach out to him and support him.”

But from the other side of the political spectrum, the response was inevitably starkly different.

The PP spokesman for La Linea, Nacho Macias, insisted that the Spanish Government was engaged in “silent work to support the city and resolve its problems”.

“This is a long process and those who do not want to see this are doing no favours to La Linea,” he added.

“La Linea’s demands predate Brexit and it is not fair to expect everything to be resolved in just 15 months.”

The message was echoed by the PP councillor in Algeciras Luis Angel Fernandez, who is also the president of the Mancomunidad.
Sr Fernandez said the Spanish Government was treating the interests of Spanish cross-border workers as “a priority issue” in the Brexit negotiations.

“The Spanish Government’s position is that there must be no measures that could prejudice the flow of people, goods or services across the [border] fence,” he said.

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