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GSD says CM’s rejection of cross-party treaty team ‘a total disservice to Gibraltar’

GSD Leader Keith Azopardi. Photos John Bugeja

The GSD on Wednesday described as “remarkable” and “a total disservice to Gibraltar” the GSLP/Liberals’ decision to rule out forming a cross-party negotiating team for treaty talks.

The Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, said the government’s decision put party over Gibraltar, adding it was a “false and outrageous slur” to suggest the GSD was soft on Spain.

The exchanges come after Mr Azopardi told this newspaper earlier this month that he would invite Chief Minister Fabian Picardo to the negotiating table were the GSD to be elected later this year.

But in a budget address on Tuesday, Mr Picardo rejected that prospect outright, insisting the GSLP/Liberals would continue to work in Gibraltar’s best interests but would not sit as part of a cross-party team if they lost the election.

The Chief Minister said the GSD position was a “ridiculous political stunt” from a party that had criticised the government’s decisions throughout the Brexit process, only to now say it would invite Mr Picardo to sit at the negotiating table together if it won the election.

For the GSD, Mr Picardo’s reaction signalled desperation to distract from domestic failings and a willingness to “say anything to stay in power”.

“The effect of what they are saying is that such would be the rage of the GSLP/Liberals if they are rejected at the polls that they would refuse to help a GSD Government,” the GSD said in a statement.

“So be it. They will be judged by the electorate for that political arrogance.”

Mr Picardo had insisted the GSLP/Liberals were best placed to continue the negotiations, particularly in the event of a change of government in Spain on Sunday. Polls indicate the Partido Popular and the far-right party Vox could win sufficient votes to form a coalition government.

But the GSD said it had a competent team to deal with the challenge of Brexit, noting that Mr Picardo had no ministerial experience when he was elected into office in 2011 and was “certainly not indispensable”.

Conversely, it said three of its current MPs had ministerial experience and that party leader Mr Azopardi was deputy Chief Minister to Sir Peter Caruana at the time of the joint sovereignty crisis.

Additionally, the GSD would “inherit” the Gibraltar Government officials who have been involved in the discussions, the party said.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “This political arrogance smacks of the old unreconstructed GSLP.”

“They have admitted they are not willing to present a united front in the interests of Gibraltar or to even participate in a joint delegation.”

“This is an incredible turn of events.”

“The GSD has said often that we are prepared to work with the present administration in the national interest.”

“We offered our help on Brexit but they decided to go it alone. We worked with them from the Opposition benches on COVID.”

“Where necessary and in the public interest of Gibraltar we have put country over party and offered our help.”

“Here is the GSLP doing the opposite.”

“Mr Picardo is saying he is too big to work with a future GSD Government. This unbelievable arrogance is striking.”

“They are playing a party-political card to say to people that the only way they would be willing to work in the interests of Gibraltar is if they are in Government.”

“This is completely different to the position the GSD have adopted where we have offered our help from Opposition and would seek to invite them to join our delegation in Government.”

“Frankly if it has come to that then let the people of Gibraltar judge this for what it is – a shameless political act from Mr Picardo who is now desperate to save his political skin and is seeking to blackmail voters into one final term.”

“It is unbelievable that he would be prepared to fail to assist a future GSD Government.”

During a budget address, Mr Picardo had referred too to the debate about the so-called ‘Andorra solution’ when Sir Peter was Chief Minister, adding that Mr Azopardi had written on how, in his view, an ‘Andorra solution’ would not amount to joint sovereignty.

Mr Picardo said that with the GSLP/Liberals, negotiators knew that “they can't even say the words” join sovereignty or Andorra.

“The manufactured pretext for all this is that Mr Picardo doesn’t want to sit in the same delegation with people he considers soft on Spain,” Mr Azopardi said of the Chief Minister’s intervention.

“That is a false and outrageous slur on the GSD and of me in particular.”

“People know that the idea we are soft on Spain is complete nonsense.”

“It’s like the desperate card they played in the last chance saloon in 1996; fearmongering about the GSD and Peter Caruana’s credentials then.”

“The GSD track record is clear and people know what it is.”

“This is one last desperate throw of a dice by Mr Picardo who is running out of things to say to divert people from the many domestic failings of his Government – from the public finances’ crisis; the failures of the health service and housing departments; the waste, abuse and corruption agenda.”

“The position that they would not assist a future GSD Government is the latest warped manifestation of a GSLP that puts its interests above those of Gibraltar.”

“For that reason alone they should be booted out of office and the sooner the better.”

“We will still make that offer to them in Government and if they really refuse they will be seen for what they are - people who are not prepared to work for Gibraltar’s interests whatever the outcome of the next election.”

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