Govt steps up ‘no deal’ planning to cover all Brexit eventualities, remains hopeful of agreement
The Gibraltar Government said it continues to plan for “all eventualities” against the backdrop of negotiations to define a future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union before the Brexit transition period comes to an end on December 31.
The Government said it it remained confident that a good economic partnership could be agreed and that this would “greatly benefit” Gibraltar by enabling “an area of shared prosperity” with the surrounding region.
But it added it had a duty to prepare for all the different outcomes, including departure from the EU without an agreement in place for a future relationship.
Last week, the Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, chaired a meeting of the Brexit Strategic Group in order to provide “added impetus” to plans in the even of a no deal Brexit.
The meeting reviewed the output from the Brexit Executive Group, which included all the different specialist resilience groups tasked with specific topic areas and which is normally chaired by the Chief Secretary.
The Deputy Chief Minister briefed the meeting on different aspects of the wider UK/EU negotiations and explained that three more rounds were planned, No.6 said.
These would be round seven in Brussels the week of August 17-21, round eight in London on September 7-11 and round ninein Brussels between September 28 and October 2.
The Chief Negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier are expected to meet in between as required.
“The meeting found that the no-deal planning work which had been carried out in 2018 and 2019 had been very useful and, in some areas, served as a dress rehearsal for the Covid-19 pandemic,” No.6 Convent Place said.
“This was particularly so in relation to the stock-piling of materials by the GHA and the setting-up of an oxygen plant at the hospital, for example.”
“In other instances, departments and agencies had drawn up detailed action plans for a no deal Brexit which were then adopted to deal with Covid-19 also.”
No.6 said the Deputy Chief Minister had asked for an update on a review he had earlier requested of all the Technical Notices and no deal advice that the Gibraltar Government has issued so far.
This is being conducted by the Director of the Brussels Office, Daniel D’Amato, together with the Civil Contingencies Coordinator, Ivor Lopez.
A number of different reports were put forward to the meeting by the Chief Secretary, the GHA, the Port Authority, the Royal Gibraltar Police, HM Customs, the Department of the Environment and the Gibraltar Law Officers on legislation issues.
“The Government continues to plan for all outcomes because this is the responsible thing to do,” said Dr Garcia, who is responsible for work related to Gibraltar’s departure from the EU.
“It is obvious that the greater the planning the more likely that concerns are identified and solutions are found.”
“The issues are narrower as we progress to 31 December and all the work carried out so far is expected to be very useful if there is no agreement.”
“There are alternative methods and mechanisms that the Government is putting in place, both in a legal and in practical sense, which will come into play in the event that we lose our existing EU framework.”
“The Government is very grateful to the civil service, the public service and our agencies and authorities for the positive way in which everyone has put the shoulder to the wheel for the wider benefit of Gibraltar.”
Planning for a no deal Brexit is just one aspect of the Government’s work as it strives to prepare Gibraltar for the end of the transition period and life beyond.
No.6 Convent Place said separate work-streams running in parallel to each other had continued to operate over the last few years, even through the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement offering an update on this Brexit-related work, No.6 said one aspect related to the commitments entered into in relation to the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, the Gibraltar Protocol and the accompanying MoUs.
“This framework ensured the orderly departure of Gibraltar from the European Union and our inclusion in the transition,” No.6 said.
Another aspect of the work relates to ongoing discussions with the UK about any agreements on trade reached with the EU.
A separate work-stream concentrates on future trade deals which the UK is negotiating with non-EU countries.
There is also work on what No.6 described as “an ambitious future relationship" between Gibraltar and the EU, including with the Rock’s nearest EU neighbour,Spain.
Gibraltar, the UK and Spain held a first formal round of discussions in Malaga on June 9, which No.6 said - as it had done on earlier occasions - were conducted “in a positive and constructive atmosphere”.
The Gibraltar team at those talks was led by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and included the Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney General Michael Llamas and Financial Secretary Albert Mena.
Some time after that meeting, Mr Picardo met with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, while she was visiting the Campo de Gibraltar.