Spain’s “change of tone” on Gibraltar is a welcome development that must now be followed up with actions, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said yesterday, as he reviewed the latest Brexit developments during a meeting with La Linea mayor Juan Franco.
Mr Picardo said that although the tone of Spain’s public statements on Gibraltar had softened, the shift came alongside developments including the EU’s recent confirmation of a Spanish veto over the application of any future UK/EU trade deal to Gibraltar.
“It is fair to say to Mr Dastis that from the moment he took over as Spanish foreign minister he has set out to change the tone of at least the approach to Gibraltar in media terms,” Mr Picardo said.
“I think that is very positive, but at the same time as we have seen the change of tone it is under Mr Dastis that we have seen the inclusion of Clause 24 in the EU’s negotiating guidelines, which the Government of Gibraltar considers to be contrary to European law.”
“We have to balance the change of tone with the reality of the action that we are seeing, and until we see that action pass and ensure that in the legal text and political arrangements the danger has gone for the people of Gibraltar, we will not be satisfied simply with a change of tone.”
“The change of tone has to actually materialise into action which is positive for the communities that live on both sides of the frontier, [and] which recognises and respects the role the Government of Gibraltar has in representing the people of Gibraltar as a distinct and relevant voice with the right to ensure that any of the arrangements entered [into] work for the people of Gibraltar, or are not entered [into].”
Mr Franco, who is always careful to underscore that foreign affairs is the responsibility of the central government in Madrid, echoed much of the sentiment expressed by the Chief Minister.
“The position of the previous foreign minister for us was hard and did not focus on the real problem,” he said.
Mr Franco told reporters that the change of tone from Mr Dastis was “important”.
“I think we are laying down the foundations for new positions in regards to the question of Gibraltar,” Mr Franco said.
“We are talking about a problem that affects many thousands of people in this area that is economically depressed and evidently the situation is based on our history.”
“This is not something that has happened in the past year. It is a situation that we have to find a solution to, but while doing so we must think of the public that will live the consequences of the politics from the past.”
La Linea’s mayor added that he aims to continue a fluid relationship with Gibraltar throughout and after the Brexit process, and hopes that any future negotiations will focus on the issues affecting the public.
The meeting yesterday, which was also attended by deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, is the latest in a string of such meetings such Mr Franco took office.
“The important thing about today is the normality in which we approach these contacts and the regularity of which Juan and I have had the opportunity to exchange views,” Mr Picardo said.
“There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that Brexit does not affect the people who cross that frontier everyday whether they are Gibraltarians or Gibraltar residents going north, or whether they are European citizens or any nationality travelling south.”
Mr Franco mirrored Mr Picardo’s statements on the fluid relationship between the La Linea council and the Government of Gibraltar.
“We have a new reality that now affects both Gibraltar and La Linea, and in particular our economy,” Mr Franco said when discussing Brexit.
“I am very happy with the conversation we have just had and I am delighted to be here in Gibraltar. Most importantly we have had a new exchange of information since the last time we met here in Gibraltar.”