The GSD has again lashed out at the Gibraltar Government over Brexit and the withdrawal agreement currently being negotiated by the UK and the EU, insisting that the people of Gibraltar should be informed as to what is being discussed with Spain as part of that process.
In a statement, the GSD accused the Chief Minister of laying down “smokescreens” while refusing to tell people what is being negotiated, and even though the government accepts that the withdrawal agreement, as it stands, is not a sufficiently good deal for Gibraltar.
Mr Picardo, it added, had “launched into a personal attack” on GSD Leader Keith Azopardi “to somehow seek to confuse the issues”.
“The issue remains that the Government seems to be unwilling to tell the people of Gibraltar what issues are being discussed with Spain, what it has put on the table and is prepared to negotiate and what issues Spain has put on the table,” the GSD said.
The GSD compared the current situation to its handling of the trilateral process, which it said had been completely transparent.
It referred to comments made by Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis, who has been quoted as saying issues such as the airport, tobacco and fiscal issues have been discussed with the UK.
It said Gibraltar should not have to learn through press reports what is being discussed.
“Let me be very clear,” Mr Azopardi said.
“I will not be deterred by the Chief Minister launching into personal attacks to evade the issues.”
“The people of Gibraltar are wise enough to understand when someone is refusing to answer a simple question.”
“In this case the unanswered question is very basic – why not tell the people of Gibraltar what is on the table and in exchange of what. The people deserve answers and should be told what is being negotiated. The Government is refusing to do so.”
“We also made the central point that the Withdrawal Agreement does not currently cater for our unique features or interests.”
“It is simply not a good enough deal for Gibraltar in its current state. It does not secure freedom of movement for Gibraltarians and UK nationals living here.”
The GSD also referred to Mr Picardo’s recent references to the Cordoba Agreement when the issue of the airport was raised in recent press reports, describing them as “irrelevant” unless the government was prepared to agree a Cordoba-style agreement for enhanced use of the airport.
The GSD noted that in a BBC Radio 4 interview earlier this week, Mr Picardo said he believed in “enhanced use” of the airport.
The was the precise phrase used in the Cordoba agreement, the GSD said, “so that may be where he is heading.”
If so, “that would be a volte face for him,” it added.
In the statement, the GSD set out its own policy on the possible enhanced use of the airport.
“If an agreement can be reached that secures effective and permanent freedom of movement at the border for Gibraltarians and UK nationals residing in Gibraltar during and beyond the transitional period and single market access, the party would, in principle, support an agreement for enhanced use of the airport that has no sovereignty, jurisdiction and control implications for Gibraltar,” it said.
“While all that would be subject to detail that would need to be studied further that would be our, in principle, view.”
“People are entitled to know what the Gibraltar Government’s policy position is.”
The GSD also repeated its position that the number and nature of briefings received from the government on this issue – in particular those for Mr Azopardi – were inadequate.
Mr Azopardi, who is not an MP, was last briefed in January, while there have been three meetings of the Brexit select committee of MPs since then.
The GSD said that in a fast-moving political scenario, this was insufficient, adding that meetings were no longer than a hour and no documents were provided.
“They are hardly meetings that could possibly be described as meetings that involve the GSD in negotiations or give the GSD any real visibility of the negotiations in a way that would allow us to influence the process,” the statement said.
“Everyone knows the Chief Minister’s penchant to surround himself with celebrities and actors but he needs to be careful he does not constantly stray into the realms of fiction lest he starts believing his own tales. Besides as stated yesterday – all this misses the point.”
The GSD said the issues it was raising were not about the adequacy of briefings but rather that the people of Gibraltar should be told what is being negotiated with Spain and the sufficiency of the EU Withdrawal Agreement as it stands.
“Attending such private briefings or assisting behind the scenes, if asked, does not mean that the GSD cannot then ask legitimate questions of the Government or make its own analysis of the EU Agreement,” Mr Azopardi said.
“This is what we sought to do on Tuesday and raised the fair points that, in our view, the Government should be open with the people of Gibraltar about what it is negotiating and that the Withdrawal Agreement is not a good enough deal for Gibraltar.”