Pointing to 2011 video, GSD rejects ‘brazen GSLP lies’ Azopardi supports Andorra model for Gib
“The Andorra solution is never going to be a model for Gibraltar. Let me make that very, very clear.”
The words were spoken by Keith Azopardi during an election debate in 2011, when he was the Leader of the now defunct Progressive Democratic Party.
They surfaced again yesterday in the latest salvo from the GSD in the row over Andorra.
The message from the GSD was clear: The GSLP/Liberals were “spinning a false narrative” by suggesting Mr Azopardi supported the Andorra model for Gibraltar.
The row flared up after Mr Azopardi, in an interview with this newspaper, revealed that if elected to government, he would invite the Leader of the Opposition to sit alongside him as part of a cross-party negotiating team in the treaty negotiations.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo rejected the prospect, questioning the GSD’s experience and citing an academic book written over a decade ago by Mr Azopardi in which he expressed the view that Andorra’s model did not amount to joint sovereignty.
For the GSLP/Liberals, that was a position that would put Gibraltar on the back foot if Mr Azopardi was in the negotiation.
With the fuse lit, the two parties have engaged in a string of exchanges in statements and on social media for over a week, including a meme suggesting Mr Azopardi supported an Andorra model for Gibraltar.
Among the exchanges is a social media post in which the GSLP/Liberals used a clip from a 2011 pre-election debate – the same one in which Mr Azopardi also spoke - in which former GSD Chief Minister Sir Peter Caruana defended statements he had made on the Andorra model as a possible solution for Gibraltar.
The clip states Mr Picardo will sit in a negotiation on Gibraltar’s future next to someone with whom he “fundamentally disagrees”.
The problem with the clip, the GSD said on Thursday, is that it is selective and ignores that Mr Azopardi and Mr Picardo are, in fact, in agreement on Andorra, as was made clear in that same debate in 2011.
“My view is very specific on Andorra. It is not a solution for Gibraltar,” Mr Azopardi said at the time, with Mr Picardo nodding as he listened.
For the GSD, the row over Andorra amounts to “fake news”, a GSLP/Liberal tactic to distract from “real issues” of the day.
It is also a response to the invitation – should the GSD win the election – to form a cross-party negotiating team, the party believes.
“Mr Picardo knows all that. He knows what he has been suggesting is false. He was there when I said it. He can even be seen nodding when I am saying it,” Mr Azopardi said.
“What I said in 2011 was not new as I had said the same thing publicly before then and when the political issue arose in 2010.”
“What is frankly outrageous is the downright manipulation of the truth because the GSLP put out a video just the other day with an excerpt from the same programme.”
“When I ruled out the Andorra model as a solution for Gibraltar in the 2011 debate I did so seconds after the excerpt they used in their own political video.”
“It is a disgrace that they have sought to be dishonest with the people of Gibraltar by misrepresenting that and suggesting that I stand for something that I had specifically ruled out in Mr Picardo’s own presence.”
“This is not just about the past. It is symptomatic of the issues people are suffering now. Gibraltar deserves much better than a GSLP Government that brazenly lies.”
“This has been a false debate for a couple of weeks. Let’s get back to the real issues of concern to people.”
“The attempt by Mr Picardo to distract from those issues has failed. Let’s now get back to talking about the issues that matter to people now.”
Last night, the Gibraltar Government described the GSD statement as “hysterical” and said it showed Mr Azopardi’s discomfort with the contents of the book he wrote “and the signal it sends internationally”.
In the book, Mr Azopardi wrote: “It is a moot point whether Spain would accept an Andorra-style solution, … This could be the quid pro quo for Spain accepting that it cannot acquire sovereignty and that the people of Gibraltar are the key repository of sovereignty… Indeed the parties may wish to enter into a tripartite Agreement or Treaty to replace the Treaty of Utrecht, to which the EU may become a fourth party if it is to have some involvement in the resolution of the conflict. Such a Treaty could provide for the vesting of sovereignty in or for the people of Gibraltar on trust.”
It also flagged that Mr Azopardi was Deputy Chief Minister when Sir Peter, the then Chief Minister, told media here and in the UK that Andorra model was “...the sort of solution we might well examine and might well support.”
At the time, the government said in a statement, Mr Azopardi did not disassociate himself at all from that position.
“It is that which risks sending out conflicting signals again at this sensitive time in the EU negotiations on the GSD's position on the fundamentals, whatever they may say now,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.
“Moreover, Mr Azopardi's and the GSD's constant changing of positions on fundamental aspects of the negotiations make him and the GSD the risky choice to represent the people or Gibraltar at the negotiating table.”
“I am being insulted by the GSD and Mr Azopardi for simply quoting their and his words back at them,” Mr Picardo added.
“I am clear that Mr Azopardi said nothing to disassociate himself from the position set out by the Chief Minister he was deputy to in 2002.”
“Those words were clearly about the GSD's position on the status of Gibraltar. His book confirmed an affinity with the status of modern Andorra.”
“Mr Azopardi also sets up the same question as Peter Caruana had done when he was Chief Minister about the potential for Spain to put such an option to Gibraltar.”
“Mr Azopardi's statement on the Leaders’ Debate does not exonerate him from the opinion he expressed in his book and his de facto invitation for Spain to propose [an] Andorra solution.”
“That is why putting Keith Azopardi at the negotiating table now is a risk for Gibraltar.”
“It’s not what I say. It’s what he has said and what he has stood behind that creates that risk. It's clear. It's straight forward.”
“It's Mr Azopardi's own words and the GSD's repeated policy positions on Andorra that are the problem - as well as their flip flopping on the key aspects of the negotiations.”
“I make no apology for reminding the people of Gibraltar of what Mr Azopardi and the GSD have said.”
“I know that the GSLP/Liberal government I lead has and will keep Gibraltar safe in all aspects of our handling of the affairs of our nation, in particular the EU negotiations."