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Picardo to meet Junta president for Brexit talks

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo will meet the president of the Junta de Andalucia, Susana Diaz, in Seville next week to discuss Brexit and ways of generating more cross-border business.

The meeting comes after the Junta, the PSOE-led regional government, contributed to a report published by the EU Committee of the Regions on the impact of the withdrawal of the UK and Gibraltar from the EU.

Although the report was only made public last week, its contents date back to March of last year and include brief references to the impact of Brexit on Andalusia and the Campo de Gibraltar.

According to the Junta’s submission to the report, some 58.7% of Spanish workers in Gibraltar “will be affected”, although it did not expand on what the impact might be.

The Junta also noted that UK tourism accounted for 1.2% of the region’s GDP and that 46.6% of EU patients treated in Andalusian hospitals were from the UK.

Likewise exports from Andalusia to the UK totalled 1.7 billion euros, while the region imported goods valued at 893m euros from Britain.

The report highlighted the “close-knit social and economic interdependence” between Gibraltar and the Campo, adding that every effort should be taken to ensure this was not adversely affected by Brexit.

As a result of the report, Mr Picardo wrote to Mrs Diaz in order to discuss the potential consequences of Brexit on businesses and citizens in Gibraltar and Spain.

“He made the point that Gibraltar’s departure from the EU should be handled in a positive and constructive manner that creates the minimum amount of disruption,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“The governments of Gibraltar and Andalucia will explore increased cooperation with the objective of generating more economic activity and employment in a way which provides shared benefits and prosperity for all.”

The Junta also announced the meeting in a statement that quoted extensively from Mr Picardo’s January 15 letter to Mrs Diaz.

In that letter, the Chief Minister had underscored the need to “work together for the common good of the people we represent”.

“My government’s view is that our involuntary departure from the European Union should be approached positively and constructively to ensure the minimum disruption to citizens and businesses on both sides,” he wrote, according to the Junta statement.

“I have no doubt that you will agree that opportunities exist to increase our cooperation with the aim of generating more economic activity and jobs for our mutual prosperity.”

Mr Picardo, the Junta added, had described the forthcoming meeting as “a very useful first step” to understand the respective positions and “set the foundations for a positive dialogue on these matters”.

As far back as 2016, the Junta had set up a working group on Brexit and has analysed not just the implications for the region, but also potential measures to mitigate any adverse impact.

Yesterday’s announcement was not without controversy though.

Juan Franco, the mayor of La Linea, said he had been seeking a formal meeting with the Junta for months to discuss Brexit, writing on social media that it was “surprising and outrageous” that the regional government had agreed to meet Mr Picardo first.

“That is what the Andalusian government cares about us,” he wrote.

Hours later, Mr Franco confirmed he would meet top Junta officials on January 23, two days ahead of the meeting between Mrs Diaz and the Chief Minister.

He added, however, that confirmation of his meeting came only after the announcement about the meeting with Mr Picardo.

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