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Opposition backs Government position in Brexit talks, cautiously

The GSD yesterday underlined its support for the Gibraltar Government in the Brexit negotiations but added that, while it shared its hopes for a good deal, it would withhold final assessment until it could analyse all the documents in detail.

“We are an optimistic and a positive community, [but] there is growing concern amongst many in the community as to what positive measures have been secured for Gibraltar as a result of this process for which the Chief Minister and his team are said to have worked day and night on, for the last two years,” said Elliott Phillips, the Leader of the Opposition.

“Clearly we all want to achieve the best deal for Gibraltar and to that extent of course, the Government has had our support in the negotiations.”

Mr Phillips acknowledged that Opposition MPs on the Brexit Select Committee had been briefed “from time to time” but said it had not seen the full set of documents relating to Gibraltar, which have yet to be published.

“Therefore we will need to carefully analyse and evaluate their impact once they are published in full, to assess whether this is the best deal for Gibraltar in all the circumstances or whether they contain features which are adverse to our interests,” Mr Phillips said.

Once the GSD has been able to review the documents in detail, it will make a statement as to whether this is “a good or bad deal for Gibraltar”.

Mr Phillips repeated the GSD’s earlier concerns as to whether the agreements reached made the best of an opportunity to recalibrate Gibraltar’s relationship with the EU, or whether they represented a Spanish “intrusion into our affairs”.

“We await the publication of the documents so that we can make a full evaluation,” he said.

“We think the sooner the Government publishes these documents the better so that the public can make up their minds on such issues. We will not rush to judgment on such questions.”

Mr Phillips also noted that while the Gibraltar Government had briefed the Opposition, it had shouldered “the whole burden” of the Brexit negotiations without giving the GSD a chance to influence the process.

“That is their right and of course that has meant that we have not had any effective ability to participate or influence the shape of these arrangements that we will now have to fully and properly scrutinise once the documents are published,” he said.

“The Government has had significant leeway from us and political space to negotiate and conclude these arrangements which we have given in the best spirit and in the public interest.”

Mr Phillips also asked the government to offer greater clarity on its contingency planning in the event of a hard Brexit, as well as underlining the GSD’s support for a People’s Vote if the Brexit deal does not make it through the UK Parliament.

“I much suspect there will be a month ahead of constantly shifting sands in this Brexit debate,” he said.

“We do not set out our stall on this possibility and agree we should be concentrating on the emerging Brexit deal and whether this is ultimately good for the people of Gibraltar.”

Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon acknowledged that the Gibraltar and UK governments’ “hard work and solid defence of our people”, insisting that the draft Withdrawal Agreement protected Gibraltar’s sovereignty and constitutional position.

But she added: “Of course we have to remain aware of the reality that we still await to see how the Withdrawal Agreement will be voted on in [the UK] Parliament, because without the Withdrawal Agreement passing through Westminster, all of these agreements could well come to nothing.”

“I therefore sincerely hope that will not be the case.”

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