Transitional Brexit arrangements must apply ‘unconditionally’ to Gib, GSD says
Any negotiation between the UK and Spain affecting the Rock’s post-Brexit future is “unacceptable in principle”, the GSD said yesterday as it called on the Gibraltar Government to allow the Opposition fuller participation in the discussions.
The GSD was reacting to the publication of the European Commission’s draft negotiating guidelines for the next phase of the Brexit talks.
The guidelines, which are still subject to negotiation and have yet to be adopted by the European Council, reiterate the Clause 24 Gibraltar veto granted by the EU to Spain last April, which the GSD said was “unacceptable at several levels”.
Firstly, the GSD explained, Gibraltarians are EU citizens that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and should not be used as pawns in a political game by the EU and Spain.
“The rights of peoples are a paramount consideration,” the party said.
Secondly, it is unacceptable to subject Gibraltar to further bilateralism between the UK and Spain, the GSD said.
“For many years we have proclaimed that the future of Gibraltar or matters affecting Gibraltar should not be negotiated between the UK and Spain and certainly not without the participation of our Government.”
“Thirdly it is unacceptable in principle for there to be a negotiation with Spain as to whether it agrees to extend a transitional deal or a new Trade Treaty (in future) to Gibraltar.”
The GSD explained that this exposes the UK and therefore Gibraltar to have conditions placed on the extension of beneficial Treaty arrangements that are unfair and unacceptable.
GSD Leader Keith Azopardi said: “The Government needs to continue to put political pressure on the United Kingdom Government – directly and through our friends in the UK Parliament to eliminate this threat.”
“We also need to obtain clear undertakings from the UK Government that any beneficial transitional deal struck will apply to Gibraltar unconditionally.”
“The statements by Mrs May so far have fallen short of clear undertakings.”
“Yesterday she said that the UK “would not exclude Gibraltar from our negotiations for the implementation period or the future agreement.”
“Not excluding us from the “negotiations” is not the same as saying that any beneficial agreement would be unconditionally extended to Gibraltar if that is the wish of the Gibraltar Government,” the constitutional lawyer said.
He added that Gibraltar must participate in the shaping and negotiation of such arrangements as they affect Gibraltar.
“Nothing less is acceptable,” Mr Azopardi said.
“Arrangements affecting Gibraltar cannot be negotiated by the UK without involving Gibraltar and cannot be entered into without the consent of the Gibraltar Government.”
“Any beneficial transitional arrangements should unconditionally extend to Gibraltar,” Mr Azopardi said adding that the GSD have been warning the Government about this.
“As we said only last week the Government needs to be alive to the dangers in these talks and ensure it is kept fully abreast of developments.”
“It is also important it is guaranteed a seat at the table at technical and political talks involving Gibraltar.”
“We need to be careful that any arrangements that are discussed work for Gibraltar and guarantee freedom of movement and our fundamental rights and are only entered into with our consent.“
Mr Azopardi wrote to the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo for a briefing on Brexit and offering cross-party support on Brexit last week.
He is scheduled to meet Mr Picardo on 9 January 2018.
The Brexit Select Committee of Parliament was briefed on Wednesday by Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia.
“Apart from being briefed on the state of the talks with the UK I will reiterate our offer of cross-party support on this issue,” Mr Azopardi said.
The GSD Leader added that it is up to the Government how it wishes to conduct its discussions with UK and the EU, but underscored that cross-party consensus will only really be possible if the Opposition fully participates in these discussions.
He flagged how the GSD administration of Sir Peter Caruana did that with the then Opposition during the process of constitutional talks and said: “This is as much a serious challenge for Gibraltar.”
“We are ready to work with Government in the wider interests of Gibraltar if invited to fully participate.”
“Casual briefings from time to time are welcome of course but they do not allow the GSD any proper ability to influence the discussions and would clearly be insufficient in terms of achieving any possibility of a comprehensive united front,” Mr Azopardi said.