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‘No bilateral talks on Gib,’ No.6 and Convent insist

EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez chat during their meeting at Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Juan Medina

The Gibraltar Government last night slapped down an article in Spanish newspaper, El Pais, which referred to ‘bilateral’ discussions between the United Kingdom and Spain in respect of Gibraltar.

No.6 Convent Place underscored that there is no separate bilateral process of dialogue between the UK and Spain in respect of Gibraltar in the context of Brexit or otherwise.

And, in mirrored sentiments, the Convent confirmed that there is no separate, bilateral process of any kind between the UK and Spain with regards to Gibraltar.

In answer to questions from this publication the Convent explained: “UK officials continue to have constructive discussions with the Government of Gibraltar and our European partners, including Spain, to address the practical implications arising from the UK and Gibraltar’s EU exit.”

It added that the British Government is “fully involving the Government of Gibraltar as we negotiate our departure from the EU.”

The article, which was published yesterday, said Spain would look to include a specific chapter on Gibraltar in the Brexit agreement.

It added that the Spanish authorities see this as a “good moment to make progress on long-standing claims” including taxes, environmental issues and smuggling.

The publication of the article coincided with a meeting between Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier at Moncloa Palace in Madrid.
But, the article also explained that Spain will not use this meeting to bring up the matter of sovereignty over the Rock.

In a statement, No.6 reiterated that there is “discrete contact” ongoing between the UK, Gibraltar and Spain.

“The terms and format of those contacts do not offend any of the concerns any Gibraltarians would have about dialogue, although it is not presently in Gibraltar’s interests to go into the detail of how those contacts have been effected,” the Government said.

The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said: “We have long wanted to deal with any issues with Spain on which we have not been able to get traction since the Partido Popular abandoned the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue.”

“Brexit has ironically allowed us to get the ball rolling on discussions which address many areas of concern we have had,” he said adding: “Discussions have been ongoing even whilst the PP were in Government.”

“In the Brexit context, a shared priority will be to give people certainty on the fluidity of the frontier, and there is much in these discussions which is positive and Brexit has ironically allowed us to get the ball rolling on issues which have been of concern to Gibraltarians.”

“A Spanish willingness to construct a more positive relationship has been increasingly evident in recent months.”

“We are making progress in many of these respects in a manner which will be good for Gibraltar if we are able to reach agreements.”

“None of that will involve any agreements which are detrimental to Gibraltar’s interests,” Mr Picardo said.

“Key aspects of the article in El Pais are factually incorrect, for example the references to detailed Ministerial exchanges by letter.”

“What is true is that we are working on the inclusion of Gibraltar in the Withdrawal Agreement with some terms which are differentiated from the terms applicable to the rest of the United Kingdom as required by our geography and our current terms of membership of the European Union, exactly as we have already announced we are working to achieve.”

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