Gibraltar MEP Julie Girling has said that the United Kingdom’s EU withdrawal agreement is unlikely to be held up by Spanish demands over Gibraltar.
Ms Girling, MEP for the South West as well as Gibraltar, was speaking as part of an interview with online television channel Core Politics in which she also insisted that Brexit is bad for the Rock no matter how it is ‘spun’.
“I think it’s very difficult for the Gibraltar Government because on the one hand it’s a strange irony that those in the UK who seem to most support Gibraltar over the years…they tend to be really hard Brexiteers,” she said.
“There’s a correlation there somewhere which is somewhat difficult to understand because, clearly, Brexit is not good for Gibraltar.”
“It doesn’t matter how you spin it, it’s not going to work well in a territory that requires about 13,000 people a day to cross the border to keep its economy going,” Ms Girling said adding that she was “very worried” about the prospect of a hard border.
Asked what the likely solution to the situation would be, she insisted that the “only answer” was a trilateral agreement between Gibraltar, Spain and the UK.
Quizzed about the inclusion in the EU’s negotiating position on Brexit of a Spanish veto over the application of any future U.K./EU trade deal to Gibraltar Ms Girling said it was “significant” but added that it “doesn’t mean anything more than a member state has a veto on any part of that agreement.”
“Which is, as I understand it, the same for any member state,” she added.
“If the whole UK withdrawal agreement is being held up at the EU end by Spain that’s not going to run,” Ms Girling said.
Asked if it was a bluff she replied: “It’s a negotiation”.
“It’s part of the implacable face that says ‘we were 28 one is leaving and that leaves 27, one of whom has got a special interest and we’re looking after that special interest, same with Ireland’”.
“Ireland have been given a front row seat at the EU side, for all the right reasons, but they are one of the 27 that’s also very heavily affected.”
“What the EU has done is said ‘we’ve got 27 negotiating together but two of our members have got very special issues here’”.
“But make no mistake other member states have got special interests too and the Spanish have got fishing, they’re very concerned about losing access to our fishing waters and losing the access of our fish going into their markets.”
Asked if it is likely that the UK Government will concede some form of access for EU vessels in UK fishing waters Ms Girling replied: “I’ve said right from the beginning Gibraltar is the only card we’ve got.”
“Spain very much want that access, the UK very much wants Gibraltar to maintain a special status in terms of the border and workers crossing,” she added.
“They may not be connected but that’s what negotiations of this complexity are all about – joining up the dots between seemingly unconnected issues.”
“So it seems perfectly reasonable to me that that’s where we are going to end.”