GSD Leader Keith Azopardi has said the Gibraltar Government must insist on participating in any Brexit-related discussions that affect Gibraltar’s future.
In a statement, Mr Azopardi said it is no good to allow the UK to brief Gibraltar on outcomes when the Rock’s future is being discussed.
In doing so he insisted that the process is about representation, influence and guaranteeing outcomes that are positive to Gibraltar.
This is especially relevant, he said, when all that Prime Minister Theresa May has said is that the UK is involving Gibraltar in the negotiations “but has not given us a cast-iron public undertaking to extend beneficial arrangements to Gibraltar”.
“What is the point of going to the United Nations asserting our right to self-determination if we are going to accept to be excluded from talks between Britain and Spain that affect our internal affairs?” Mr Azopardi said.
He insisted that the Gibraltar Government must “act now before it is too late”, adding that it must seek guarantees from Britain as to its representation in and on the outcomes of those discussions.
“We cannot accept that those talks with Spain proceed without us for the simple fact that Spain claims our sovereignty and regularly seeks to intrude on our self-government,” said Mr Azopardi.
Flagging recent comments by Michel Barnier, the Chief EU negotiator, during a visit to Madrid that it was “legitimate” for Spain to demand that the extension of transitional arrangements to Gibraltar should be agreed bilaterally between it and the UK, he said this represented a further example of the EU’s customary “blinkered approach on Gibraltar and its disregard for its EU citizens in Gibraltar”.
He added that the statements also emphasise the danger there is to Gibraltar in allowing those talks between the UK and Spain to proceed on a bilateral basis.
The GSD statement explained that the UK has traditionally acted as Gibraltar’s interlocutor in our dealings with the EU on a diverse range of matters.
This, it said, made sense in so far as those arrangements were being negotiated by the Member State responsible on our behalf because we were not a Member State of the EU but the Treaties applied to us.
“When the UK represented us at the EU it inevitably meant that it would discuss matters (on our behalf) that might apply to Gibraltar.”
“This was inevitable because when we agreed to allow the Treaties to apply to Gibraltar that came with an acceptance that laws would be made for Gibraltar in Brussels.”
“That practice had to continue while we were members of the EU with the UK representing us. The manner of that representation is the subject of constitutional guarantees that recognise our self-government.”
“However to the extent that the negotiations are now about the relationship that the UK and Gibraltar will have with the EU after we leave the EU this is quite a different matter,” the GSD said.
The party insisted that the discussions that the UK are engaged in with the EU have two dimensions.
Firstly, to negotiate the terms of withdrawal.
Within that there are transitional arrangements that are being negotiated and it is the GSD’s view that a beneficial transitional arrangement should be extended to Gibraltar.
The second dimension is the negotiation of trade arrangements with the EU that will take effect after Britain leaves the Union.
Again, the GSD said, the issue is whether those arrangements will apply to Gibraltar.
“If the negotiations are only conducted at EU level then Gibraltar could take the view that it would be willing to allow matters to be discussed at that level without the participation of the Gibraltar Government as long as there are guarantees that no agreements would be entered into that affect Gibraltar without the consent of our Government,” it said adding that this is not the case.
The EU has agreed to subject the extension of those arrangements to a discussion between the UK and Spain.
“But that decision of the EU is within its own negotiating mandate,” the GSD said flagging how it is not binding on the UK or acceptable to Gibraltar.
The Gibraltar Government should therefore seek to be involved in those discussions on the basis that it has been our long-standing position that there should be no bilateral negotiations between Britain and Spain about matters that affect Gibraltar’s future, the GSD said.
The talks envisaged with Spain will have aspects that are specifically about Gibraltar.
“Those discussions may touch upon commercial, trade, fiscal matters or impact upon our economic self-sufficiency, viability as a community, governance and sovereignty,” the GSD leader added.
“We cannot proceed on the same basis when these talks are about what happens after we leave and what arrangements are in place at that point,” Mr Azopardi said.
“We cannot pretend it is the same as allowing the UK as the Member State responsible to negotiate something governing a precise aspect of, for example), social policy in relation to matters that apply to us by virtue of being an integral part of the Union and while we remain members,” he added.