Theresa May and Scotland’s First Minister clashed at a Downing St Brexit summit dominated by a “very frank exchange of views”, Nicola Sturgeon revealed yesterday.
Ms Sturgeon branded a warning from Number 10 that the devolved administrations must not try to undermine the UK’s negotiating position as “nonsense” as she labelled the talks between the PM and the leaders of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as “deeply frustrating”.
“We had a very frank exchange of views. I don’t mind admitting large parts of the meeting were deeply frustrating,” Ms Sturgeon said as she agreed “feisty” was a fair way to sum up the atmosphere at the meeting.
Ms Sturgeon dismissed talk of undermining Britain’s EU withdrawal deal, saying: “I think that is nonsense, and it is not what anybody is seeking to do.”
‘MARATHON, NOT SPRINT’
Coinciding with the meeting in London, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the work being done by Gibraltar ahead of Brexit is “a marathon, not a sprint”, and insisted that “important progress” was being made in talks with the UK.
Mr Picardo was reacting to “ill-informed” claims in Spanish media that Gibraltar’s absence from the meeting between Mrs May and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland suggested the Rock had been side-lined.
In fact, deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, who is heading Gibraltar’s Brexit preparations, was in London yesterday for another round of talks with senior officials.
And the meeting between the British Government and the devolved administrations was being held under existing arrangements agreed in October 2013 prior to the EU referendum result.
It was not a new Brexit forum created to the exclusion of Gibraltar, but an existing forum which was being convened to deal with the Brexit issue, No 6 Convent Place said.
“We have not been left out of any new Brexit forum created for the devolved administrations,” Mr Picardo said.
“I am totally satisfied that we are being fully involved in respect of the relevant decision making on Brexit.”
“Our requirements going forward are being understood and we are making important progress on many areas already.”
“It is best, however, if we are discreet in how we announce the fruits of the work we are doing. The work we are doing for Gibraltar is a marathon and not a sprint.”
Dr Garcia was in London accompanied by the Attorney General, Michael Llamas, QC, and Gibraltar’s UK representative, Dominique Searle. Also present was Principal Secretary Caine Sanchez.
They were holding detailed meetings on Brexit-related matters with senior officials in the Department for Exiting the EU and other departments.
“It is that type of detailed work in which we must also engage in now to ensure we are in pole position for people to understand the things that will be essential for Gibraltar going forward,” Mr Picardo said.
No 6 Convent Place added that Gibraltar’s position was “materially different in many respects” to those of the devolved administrations and to those of the Crown Dependencies and the other Overseas Territories.
Gibraltar will be holding continuing separate meetings at a ministerial level and official level in respect of the specific requirements that Gibraltar will be seeking to have accommodated in partnership with the United Kingdom in the context of Brexit, it added.
“In respect of Gibraltar, the 2006 Constitution specifically provides (at Section 47(3)) that EU matters are not considered to be matters of ‘external relations’ where they are within the competence of Gibraltar ministers,” the statement said.