Spain’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jose Manuel García-Margallo, reached out to Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in the wake of the Brexit referendum in a bid to “seduce” him with Spain’s joint sovereignty proposal – but was turned away for his “entirely deluded” approach to Gibraltar and its people.
In an interview on Canal Sur yesterday, Sr García-Margallo claimed he had been due to meet Mr Picardo privately but that the Chief Minister pulled out over concerns the encounter would be leaked to the media.
But the claim was rejected by Mr Picardo yesterday, who said that while there had been an approach from Spain, it had been turned down.
“It is true that Sr Margallo sought to meet with me directly,” the Chief Minister said.
“The request for the direct meeting was despite his public statements to the effect that he would only meet on Gibraltar with the United Kingdom bilaterally or in the context of a quadrilateral forum including the Junta de Andalucia.”
“My response to the private request was exactly the same as my public position on any meeting with a Spanish minister or official, namely that I would only be prepared to meet to discuss non-sovereignty matters and that the meeting should not be secret.”
“Given my reply, I did not receive a further response.”
“Now, as then, I think everyone in Gibraltar considers that Sr Margallo was entirely deluded in his approach to the people of Gibraltar.”
In his interview yesterday, Sr García-Margallo said Spain’s co-sovereignty proposal was “good business” for Gibraltar that could unlock potential for massive economic development of this strategic region.
He said Gibraltar would retain control over its affairs other than in key areas such as foreign relations, defence and immigration, while its citizens would have dual British and Spanish nationality.
The former minister, who was dropped by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last year and replaced by career diplomat Alfonso Dastis, said Spain must employ a dual strategy in the coming months.
Madrid must take “a firm stance in the negotiation” while highlighting “a prosperous economic future for the entire area that seduces Gibraltarians and offers opportunities”.
In revealing the approach to the Chief Minister, he said he had also spoken “with Gibraltarians who have great influence with Picardo” and insisted that “there are conversations”.
“There are many people who are talking because there is a need to set out the advantages of this proposal,” he said.
“But until they are convinced – and I’m referring to Picardo – that we are going to be very firm in the negotiation and that we are going to be very committed to developing the area, something that will benefit them, they will not talk.”
“And they will never admit in public that they are ready to accept that thesis.”
“I insist, the important thing is to convince them that what we are offering opens up business opportunities like they have never had.”
Sr García-Margallo has long set out a similar stance on Gibraltar and Brexit, despite being repeatedly rebuffed by officials in Gibraltar.
The Gibraltar Government has made clear beyond doubt that the Rock’s British sovereignty is not up for discussion.
The UK has likewise made clear it will neither change nor even discuss Gibraltar’s sovereignty against the wishes of the Gibraltarians.
Both governments have said they would welcome constructive dialogue with Spain, but only if it respects red lines on sovereignty.
Their preference is for a return to the trilateral forum for dialogue.