No 6 hits back at ‘repugnant’ suggestion from Margallo
Spain will argue that Gibraltar should be excluded from any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU, Spain’s acting Foreign Minister said yesterday as he renewed an offer of joint sovereignty and drew immediate flak from No 6 Convent Place.
Speaking at a press conference, José Manual García-Margallo again said joint sovereignty was “the only solution” for Gibraltar to remain within the EU after last week’s Brexit vote.
“It’s very cold outside the European Union and they have the possibility of staying inside of they accept the hand that is being generously held out to them,” he told reporters when asked about Gibraltar.
“This offer is good business,” he added. “Not accepting it is bad business.”
But Chief Minister Fabian Picardo reminded the minister that Gibraltarians had rejected joint sovereignty in 2002 and that excluding Gibraltar from talks about its future in the EU would be “repugnant” to any democrat.
He said Sr García-Margallo’s “unhealthy obsession” with Gibraltar, which voted by 96% to remain in the EU, was risking the livelihoods of cross-border workers.
“Mr Margallo should take careful note that an overwhelming majority of the people of Gibraltar rejected the very principle of shared sovereignty in 2002,” Mr Picardo said.
“This remains the positon of the Government and of the people of Gibraltar to this day.”
“In setting this condition as his personal criteria for Gibraltar to remain in the EU, he knows that this has already been rejected out of hand and that it will never happen.” “Therefore Mr Margallo, with his unhealthy obsession about Gibraltar, is putting at risk the jobs of thousands of his countrymen who live in Spain and are employed in Gibraltar and who depend on the EU principle of freedom of movement to get from home to work every day.”
Sr García-Margallo was speaking in a press conference after meeting his Argentine counterpart, Susana Malcorra, and discussing the possibility of a joint strategy on Gibraltar and the Falklands in the wake of Brexit.
He said Spain would call on the EU in September, once the UK has a new Prime Minister, to prevent Gibraltar being included in any negotiation ahead of withdrawal from the EU.
“The UK and the EU have nothing to discuss on this issue,” he said.
“This is a bilateral matter between the UK and Spain.”
But No 6 Convent Place said the Spanish minister was “clearly” neither a democrat nor an expert in EU law.
No 6 Convent Place said the British Government had already guaranteed that Gibraltar would be “fully involved” in the process in the event of a UK exit from the EU, in the same way as Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would be involved.
It said the people of Gibraltar had voted by 96% to remain in the EU and that this should be “a source of pride” for anyone who believed in the European project.
The Gibraltarians had delivered this mandate and that was why the Gibraltar Government was exploring options to remain in the EU.
No 6 Convent Place said that, given the precedent set by Denmark and Greenland, it was “perfectly possible” for a part of an EU Member State to remain in the bloc while and another part left.
It said that in the context of the UK, this could mean that UK remained inside but its constituent parts were redefined to include Scotland, Gibraltar, London and any other region that voted to remain.
There would be no exit for Gibraltar and no need to renegotiate the terms of a new relationship with the EU because these would not change, the government argued.
The Spanish minister also had a message for Scotland, which he said could not negotiate remaining in the EU while still part of the UK.
“If Scotland wants to join the European Union it will have to gain independence through a referendum,” he reportedly said according to Spanish media outlets.
Only after it was recognised as a state by the UN would it be able to negotiate its membership of the EU, he added.
“Everything else are dreams on a summer night,” Sr García-Margallo said.