By Damon Bossino
We have now had both leaders in Government giving us their assessments of what the political state of play is in their New Year messages. Brexit, as you can well imagine, has featured significantly.
I don’t know about you but I continue to harbour very serious concerns about Gibraltar’s inclusion, as of right and devoid of any preconditions, in both the transitional and post Brexit deal between the EU and the UK. The risk in my view remains that we could be sacrificed by the UK when faced with a choice between benefiting from a deal for its millions of citizens or not applying it for the sake of tiny Gibraltar and its 30,000 souls.
The British government, at various Ministerial levels, including the Prime Minister, has made statements which at first blush look good but on closer analysis still leave room for considerable doubt. This, in my mind, is unacceptable.
You will recall when the EU negotiating guidelines were first published last April how we had very clear guarantees with regards to our sovereignty. There were even threats of sending in the troops by Sir Michael Howard. But as I said at the time such a focus was to miss the point entirely. What we need is an unequivocal and open commitment from the UK government saying that it will not enter into another deal with the EU which does not substantially extend to Gibraltar the benefits that the U.K may have secured for itself in the negotiations to the extent that they can be applied to Gibraltar.
In one of her more recent Commons statements the Prime Minister has said, according to the Chronicle press report of 19th December, that the UK would be:
“…negotiating for the UK but that includes negotiating to ensure that the relationships are there for Gibraltar as well.”
“We’re not going to exclude Gibraltar from our negotiation for either the implementation period or for the agreement for the future.”
But are these statements enough? ‘Including’ Gibraltar in the negotiations is not the same as saying ‘if Gibraltar is not included there will be no deal’. THAT is what I would like to hear the British government say. THAT is a commitment worth giving. THAT is a commitment worth having.
The Chief Minister repeats his account of the cast iron guarantee which he states he has received from Mr David Davis. Yet there is no corroboration of this from any other source. He then says that there is:
‘a golden thread that admits of no conclusion other than that Gibraltar cannot legitimately be excluded from any U.K transitional period or any relevant aspects of any future trade deal or deals with the European Union.’
That is a matter of his interpretation. It is subjective. It is not enough. Are we expected to rely on an uncorroborated verbal commitment on such an important issue? Should he not have concluded by saying ‘and I will be pushing for a public commitment from the U.K government’ along the lines I have been referring to earlier? Indeed, his analysis begs the question, if there is such a ‘golden thread’ why don’t we get the explicit undertaking in open, in public, in writing even?
He also talks about being involved in the Gibraltar relevant aspects of the Brexit negotiations. That much is clear from the Prime Minister’s commons statements I referred to before. But, once again, is that enough? What about when we get to the end of those negotiations and a gun is put to the U.K’s head with regards to Gibraltar?
He then goes on to say that ‘Gibraltar is now recognised a part of the political agreement recently done on withdrawal’. Which agreement is he referring to? How is Gibraltar ‘recognised’?
Talking about the British government’s commitment to safeguard our economy is, as I have said in the past not the same as committing to our inclusion in a post-Brexit deal.
Neither does the Deputy Chief Minister make any mention of the effects of the clause 24 Gibraltar veto. An ‘elephant in the room’ if there ever was one. He talks about what now appears to be his often repeated mantra about doing ‘everything humanly possible to ensure that the position of Gibraltar is not forgotten going forward’. He asks us to rest assured but I am sorry. I cannot and will not rest assured. I will remain anxious on this matter for as long as it remains unresolved.
I may be sceptical but I believe I have every reason to be. Look at how the deal to move on to the next phase of Brexit talks was initially reached over the heads of the D.U.P between the U.K, the E.U and the Irish government just over a month ago. The initial deal was scuppered at the 11th hour by the D.U.P’s leader I can only but assume because this is the party which keeps Mrs May in No.10. I suspect we do not have the same leverage despite the timely and welcome news of Mr Lidington’s appointment as in effect the Prime Minister’s right hand man.
If there is any doubt as to the nature and extent of the commitment of the British government to Gibraltar in respect of our inclusion in a post-Brexit deal – and I believe there is – I would urge all those at home and abroad involved in this process to resolve that doubt once and for all.
We have to make a choice. Do we accept everything that we are being told or do we each, as members of the community with a shared stake in the success of this place air what concerns us in public? I am a firm believer that these things should be brought up, faced and planned for.
It is impossible to overstate how much is at stake as it is impossible to overstate our loyalty as British citizens. I therefore believe that we deserve greater clarity. I believe we deserve greater transparency. We deserve better.
This is the text of a video blog posted by Damon Bossino, a former GSD MP.