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Govt complains to UK over ‘unacceptable’ comments by UK Ambassador to Morocco

David Parody

Recent “unacceptable” comments made by the UK Ambassador to Morocco about Gibraltar have been taken up with London by the Chief Minister, the Gibraltar Government said yesterday, as it urged the GSD not to make “political capital” of the issue.

This follows a radio interview in which the ambassador, Thomas Reilly, said Morocco should be cautious of any relations with Gibraltar for fear of upsetting its bilateral relations with Spain.

The ambassador, questioned repeatedly on the issue by a Moroccan journalist, agreed that Gibraltar had a role to play in post-Brexit relations with Morocco, adding there was already strong engagement in areas such as law enforcement and military training.

But he cautioned too that such contact risked upsetting Spain.

“If we talk about Gibraltar and try to forge links between Gibraltar and Morocco, you Moroccans will have problems with the Spaniards,” he said at one point during the interview on Radio Luxe.

The comments, reported in this newspaper last week, were picked up by the GSD, which questioned how the ambassador’s remarks sat with the views of the Gibraltar Government, which it said was more “confident and strident” in its assessment of the prospects for Gibraltar’s future relations with Morocco.

In an opinion piece for this newspaper, GSD MP Damon Bossino described Mr Reilly’s comments as “a worrying eyeopener”.

He added that the comments must be read in conjunction with the trade deal recently signed between the UK and Morocco, and called on the Gibraltar Government to clarify its position on the matter.

In a statement last night, No.6 Convent Place said the ambassador had said “the right thing” about Gibraltar’s future role, but added that “…the substance and tone of some of [Mr Reilly’s] comments as well as the nature of his approach are unacceptable to the Government.”

But it added: “The Government at the same time deeply regrets that the Opposition have chosen to make political capital over this issue, and the wider question of post-Brexit trade relations.”

“This is all the more so given their own admission they are not in full possession of the facts.”

“Given their newly proclaimed desire for consensus politics and cooperation, it would have been sensible for them simply to have asked the Government for information instead of sowing the seeds of doubt in public and risk putting their foot in it.”

“The position of Gibraltar in future trade agreements is protected.”

It added: “The plain fact is that the Gibraltar has for years worked quietly behind the scenes in a number of different countries in order to promote our position.”

“The Opposition should understand that there are occasions where more is achieved by this silent diplomacy than through press releases and photo-opportunities.”