Govt and Opposition trade blows on Brexit response
The GSD has accused Chief Minister Fabian Picardo of ‘insincerity’ for offering to work with the Opposition in the response to the Brexit vote, only to then ‘unilaterally’ take decisions and make public statements that had not been discussed with them.
In a statement, the GSD said Mr Picardo had called for the Opposition to work with the Government following the EU referendum result, adding that the GSD had always reacted positively to that call.
But it added that Mr Picardo was instead showing ‘a lack of statesmanship’ in his approach.
The criticism drew a strong rebuke from the Gibraltar Government, which labelled the Opposition’s statement as ‘regrettable’ and ‘presumptuous’.
The Government insisted that it has no difficulty in working with the Opposition on matters relating to the potential withdrawal of the UK and Gibraltar from the European Union.
The Government underscored that it has been given a mandate to govern by 68% of the electorate and said that the matters being discussed in London and Brussels are questions of Government business.
In its statement, the GSD said it wrote to the Chief Minister two weeks ago, calling on the Government to set up a Select Committee of Parliament to coordinate and oversee all the workings and organisation of all issues and consultations resulting from a potential Brexit.
“It is significant that the Chief Minister has not replied, while he pursues differing and uncoordinated measures internationally,” the GSD said.
“At a time when unity and statesmanship is called for, the way the Chief Minister is unilaterally taking decisions and making statements without discussing these with the GSD, shows insincerity and a lack of statesmanship.”
The GSD said it learnt of measures and initiatives in the local and international press, highlighting Mr Picardo’s call in the Financial Times for a second referendum and his extensive schedule of meetings in London and Brussels.
“This is by no means an isolated example,” the party said.
“Now is not the time for photo opportunities or public statements designed to grab the headlines,” the party said, adding that it is a time for “a united, measured and careful approach” where Gibraltar’s case is made firmly to those who can influence events in a coordinated manner, but not necessarily publicly.
“This is a time for serious and responsible politics from the Chief Minister and not the insincerity that he displays in offering to work together with the GSD while at the same time unilaterally taking decisions and making public statements that he has not even discussed with us.”
The GSD said that Gibraltar needs the Chief Minister to show statesmanship and consistency, stating: “He is not doing so at present.”
“Despite this behaviour, the GSD will continue to pursue a policy of trying to work together with the Government for the benefit of Gibraltar because it is in the interests of our community to do so.”
For its part, the Government said that the possibility of a parliamentary select committee was something that it had already considered even before the letter arrived.
The Opposition was told that this would be discussed by the Cabinet and a reply would be forthcoming after that, the Government said, explaining that the Cabinet has not met for the last two Mondays which is why the Opposition have not had a reply.
“The Opposition must understand that their letter coincided both with the budget session of Parliament and with the aftermath of the referendum result - in this context the Government can be forgiven for not yet having issued a formal response to the letter.”
“The people of Gibraltar will never forgive the Opposition if they choose to play politics with this matter at such a critical juncture in our history,” the Government said.
It added that it is engaged in exploring all the options following the outcome of the referendum and will leave no stone unturned.
The main consideration in this process, the Government said, will always be the best interests of the people of Gibraltar and not the egos of the Opposition.
“Finally, the Chief Minister has not proposed a second referendum, he simply answered a question from the Financial Times as to the circumstances in which that second referendum might be legitimate,” the statement added.