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Gib Opposition parties welcome meeting, urge vigilance

Eyleen Gomez

Gibraltar’s Opposition parties have both urged vigilance in any future discussions relating to Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU, even as they acknowledged the positive tone of the Chief Minister’s recent meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister.

The GSD and Together Gibraltar were reacting, in separate statements, to Thursday’s landmark meeting between the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Spain’s Foreign Minister, in Algeciras.

It was the first time that a Spanish Foreign Minister had met publicly bilaterally with a Chief Minister of the Government of Gibraltar.

The meeting was described as informal by the Spanish Government but drew a scathing response from the Spanish right, with the Partido Popular describing it as “a historic mistake” and accusing the Spanish government of “crossing a red line”.

In Gibraltar though, it was welcomed at least in principle.

Party Leader Keith Azopardi said: “It is clear from what has been said in public that that meeting touched on issues relating to the MOUs, Withdrawal Agreement as well as discussions relating to the future possible relationship with the EU.”

And, highlighting the GSD’s position on those agreements, he said: “It is important to remain vigilant in any future discussions to ensure bad or unsafe agreements are not reached.”

Mr Azopardi said that whilst Mrs González Laya had said some positive things, her insistence of emphasis in referring to the UK as her negotiating counterpart was “unhelpful and well removed from the practical reality that nothing can be agreed without the support of the Government and people of Gibraltar.”

“That aside we recognise that the next few months bring challenges and opportunities for all sides and for the EU itself,” he said.

“It is an opportunity to recalibrate and secure a new relationship with the EU and a respectful, modern, enduring relationship with our direct European neighbours. That can be done if all sides recognise the fundamental realities and that no agreements can be reached without the support of the people of Gibraltar.”

“There will, no doubt, be delicate discussions in the next few months about a possible future relationship. There are potential pitfalls for all parties along the way but also great opportunities if there is a willingness to be bold, imaginative and progressive in a way that respects our rights as a people,” he said.

Having been briefed by Mr Picardo on the meeting, Mr Azopardi said they had agreed to keep in contact with each other on these issues as matters develop.

“The Opposition is not involved in any of these discussions but as I have said before the Opposition would, in the right circumstances, be willing to meaningfully work together with the Government on matters of major public interest for Gibraltar if that is more likely to secure better outcomes for our people. Beyond COVID it is clear that the future relationship with the EU is the biggest challenge on the horizon for Gibraltar.”

For its part, TG said it remains supportive of the Government in its attempts to secure the best possible post Brexit relationship with Spain and the EU.

The party said it will therefore remain supportive albeit vigilant about the ongoing negotiations.

TG said it would be guided by two principles.

Firstly, that Gibraltarian sovereignty must reside always in the Gibraltarian people.

And, the importance of achieving shared prosperity in the region.

“Seeing our Chief Minister publicly and bilaterally meet with a Spanish foreign minister (an encouraging, positive sign) and hearing the tone of the rhetoric coming from both sides, we believe these guiding principles are being respected,” TG said.

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