Areas of agreement between Gibraltar, the UK and Spain in the context of Brexit are becoming “palpable”, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told a Brexit conference yesterday, even as he stressed his government’s alertness to any attempt by Madrid to step over established red lines.
Addressing delegates at an event organised by Unite the Union, Mr Picardo said there are areas in which the UK, Gibraltar and Spain are “obviously agreed”, including the need to ensure frontier fluidity, taxation information transparency and tackling illicit tobacco activity.
And while there areas where the parties were in disagreement, there was ample common ground and a consensus to try and bridge the gaps that exist.
Mr Picardo underlined how the Spanish Government had explicitly stated that it would not push its sovereignty aspiration over Gibraltar in the context of negotiations with the European Union for the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc.
This, he said, was an “important move” by the Spanish Government over the past 18 months and followed a change of tone in the Spanish Foreign Ministry since the arrival of Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Mr Picardo contrasted Spain’s current position with the language used by former Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, who the day after the EU referendum had gloated that the Spanish flag would fly over the Rock within four years.
Mr García-Margallo “had no regard for the human issues” that could impact not just Gibraltarians but Spanish and EU nationals who crossed the border daily, be it for employment, tourism or personal reasons.
He welcomed the fact that Spain was no longer adopting that negative position, adding: “It would make no sense to camp where the former Foreign Minister was camped 18 months ago.”
Even so, the Chief Minister left no doubt that while his government was open to exploring the opportunities that could arise from Brexit, it was wary too.
“Sovereignty is not something that is represented only by flags,” Mr Picardo said.
“Sovereignty is about jurisdiction and control.”
“Someone may be ostensibly not claiming your sovereignty but acceding to exercise control in the way that you do things, so that you might as well say to them, ‘you’ve got the keys if I accede to that’.”
He said his government, as with all previous Gibraltar Government’s, would not allow the Rock’s well-known red lines to be crossed.
The Chief Minister was asked about ongoing discussions on Gibraltar that are taking place with Spain as part of the UK’s wider bilateral contacts with EU members on issues arising from withdrawal.
Gibraltar has been fully involved in preparing the UK’s position in those discussions and Mr Picardo was firm on this point: “There can be no discussion without Gibraltar.”
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