Govt must be clearer on no-deal plans, GSD says
The Gibraltar Government needs to be far more explicit about its planning for a no deal Brexit and whether it intends to reach a new agreement with Spain, the GSD has said.
This follows the publication of the leaked Yellowhammer Report, which the GSD said, raises serious questions about the Government’s planning for a no deal Brexit.
But, the GSD’s comments drew rebuke from the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo who levied criticism at the party and its leader, Keith Azopardi, for its “delayed reaction” to the “out of date” report.
Nonetheless, Together Gibraltar Leader Marlene Hassan Nahon said the Government’s “dishonesty” over the situation was “concerning”.
She said: “The most worrying part of this episode has been the Gibraltar government’s insistence in describing the scenarios described in the Yellowhammer leaks as “worst-case”, when it is clearly stated that the report addresses the most likely impacts if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.”
The report highlights there could be long border queues, breaks in food and medicine supplies and general disruption to freedom of movement, waste management or business in a no deal Brexit scenario.
And, despite Government assurances that the report is out of date, the GSD said the leaked Yellowhammer Report cannot be brushed aside so easily.
“…there are important issues that undermine the Government’s presentation of its state of preparedness,” the GSD said in a statement.
GSD Leader Keith Azopardi said: “The Government needs to invest more time and resources on no deal planning and do so in a much more radical way.”
“The leaked Yellowhammer Report seen in context with other issues we point out today raise serious questions about the Government’s approach and the possible effect on our economy and way of life if the Government has got its planning wrong or has not even done any planning in a particular area.”
“Citizens, workers and business look to Government to ensure that the most robust planning is put in place,” he said adding: “Time will tell whether those preparations have been effective.”
In an article published on Sunday accompanying the publication of the leaked Yellowhammer Report the Attorney General, Michael Llamas QC said the aim of the Government is to “strike a new agreement with Spain to allow for the free movement of persons next month.”
He is quoted as saying that “we are comfortable that we can negotiate a solution whereby there will be no major disruption.”
But, the GSD said, if the Government is planning to negotiate a new agreement with Spain it should clearly say so at political level through a Minister.
It added that the Government should also explain what it envisages this new deal with Spain will contain.
In the Government’s press release of Sunday the Chief Minister is quoted as saying that “we have dealt with all issues relating to the flow of goods, foodstuffs, waste, medicines and the flow of people and vehicles across the frontier.”
“How can this be reconciled with the fact that the Attorney General has mentioned that the Government wanted to strike a new agreement with Spain,” the GSD said.
The party said it is self-evident that the Government has not “dealt with all issues” relating to “flow of people and vehicles across the frontier” if they are intending to “strike a new agreement with Spain.”
“That must mean that there are outstanding issues,” it said.
“While the Government has brushed the leaked report aside on the basis that it is out of date and planned for worst case scenarios there are important issues that undermine the Government’s presentation of its state of preparedness.”
The Sunday Times and various other media outlets reported that the leaked report is only a month old.
“So to what extent can matters have seriously been radically overhauled in a month? And if this is so then the Government should be more explicit about this to reassure the public, business and unions.”
The Sunday Times reports that “Despite the time extension to the UK’s exit from the EU Gibraltar has still not taken the decisions to invest in contingency infrastructure such as port adjustments and waste management equipment.”
“The Government has denied this but needs to be much more explicit about the steps it is taking to tackle those criticisms. In the UK the Government is ploughing huge new investment into no deal planning (approx. £2 Billion).”
“What new resources and investment are the Gibraltar Government making to prepare Gibraltar for no deal? And if new legislation is necessary the Government should bring this to Parliament as a matter of urgency.”
Additionally, the GSD said the no deal Brexit notices that the Government has published show that the leaked Yellowhammer Report cannot be brushed aside so easily.
“Strikingly there are no advisory notices that have been issued since April. So how has contingency planning been ramped up in Gibraltar when no new advice has been issued?”
“And in any event it is clear that the notices issued so far do not cover all issues of concern to industry, financial services, the consumer or the citizen who simply wants to preserve as much undisrupted normality as possible in the event of Brexit.”
Furthermore, the GSD said it should also be provided with a copy of the latest full Yellowhammer Report.
“The public interest requires that the various no deal Brexit reports should be disclosed to the GSD Opposition so that it is fully aware of matters in the run up to this election,” the GSD said.
Mr Azopardi added: “It is obvious we should be planning hard for a no deal Brexit. The election of Boris Johnson has brought that prospect much closer.”
“Citizens, workers and business look to Government to ensure that the most robust planning is put in place. Time will tell whether those preparations have been effective.”
In a Government statement Mr Picardo said it was a good thing Gibraltar is not relying on the GSD for Brexit planning, given their delay in reacting to the report.
With regards to providing the GSD with a copy of the Yellowhammer report he said the party should ask the UK Government for it.
“We don't have it,” he said.
“We only prepare the Gibraltar aspects of it.”
Mr Picardo said the Government’s no-deal planning has been led by the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia.
He added: “I am confident we have done everything possible for such an eventuality, although I maintain it will not be a bed of roses and the many problems leaving the EU will create cannot be underestimated or indeed resolved by a new arrangement that anyone is able to negotiate.”
“The Deputy Chief Minister has met repeatedly with the members of the GSD on the Brexit Select Committee - both formally and informally - and provided considerable detail on no-deal planning and all other aspects of our Brexit work.”
“Perhaps the many rivalries within the divided GSD have prevented them from properly briefing their unelected leader and that is why he displays such a lack of awareness of the huge progress we have made since the very dated report leaked to the Sunday Times.”
Additionally, Mr Picardo said he was happy for the Civil Service to engage with the GSD as the convention requires.
“I already confirmed at the last election that I had changed the GSD's improper and wrong policy in that respect. The appropriate persons in the GSD should seek an appointment via the Chief Secretary directly and not via press release.”
Mr Picardo reiterated: “We have repeatedly stated that we are working with the United Kingdom and Spain to address a no-deal situation, especially given how those issues would affect frontier flow, using the MoUs as a non-legally binding basis if there is no Withdrawal Agreement.”
“Perhaps as I have made several such statements in Parliament the unelected Mr Azopardi has missed them whilst he has been busy in his legal practice.”