The Brexit clock is ticking and the issues facing Gibraltar remain as urgent today as they were before Mariano
Rajoy was removed from office on Friday.
Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez and his team now take over from a PP administration that has for months been
engaged in delicate discussions with the UK and Gibraltar about the Rock’s post-Brexit relationship with Spain and
The fact those talks were happening at all was progress in itself, given the PP’s traditional hardline stance
on Gibraltar. Remember Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.
And even though the discussions had become strained, all sides continued to strive for an agreement that
would protect the interests of communities on both sides of the border.
Given the political turmoil in Spain, it is too soon to say how things will unfold and impact on Gibraltar. But
every effort must be made to safeguard the continuity of those discussions. Time is running out to ensure Gibraltar’s inclusion in transitional arrangements that will soften the blow of withdrawal.
Against that context, it is reasonable to think the PSOE might be a more accommodating counterpart in the
search for solutions to the challenges of Brexit.
This is a party that in the past has been open to dialogue and cooperation with Gibraltar, as was evidenced by its
role in the trilateral process when last in government. Even on the thorny issue of the airport, this is a party that
was able to agree a formula with the UK and Gibraltar that protected each side’s core positions while unlocking the potential for joint use.
For Gibraltar, there is thus room for optimism in the Spanish political upheaval.
As always though, there is a note of caution to be struck too.
Whether it is a Socialist or a PP politician in Moncloa, the underlying Spanish position on Gibraltar and sovereignty will not change.
We also must not expect too much from Mr Sanchez, who is in a precarious position. He is leading a minority government and will have to seek support from other parties with disparate, often conflicting interests. He will be under ruthless pressure from the PP and Ciudadanos, which will be calling for an early general election, and his focus will be on the bigger issues facing Spain, including the economy and Catalonia.
Gibraltar must remain on its guard.
In doing so though, we must also continue to reach out with a genuine desire for dialogue, cooperation and good cross-border relations.
That message was delivered in unison by Gibraltar’s MPs in parliament yesterday, from both sides of the chamber.
The hope now is that the people taking over in Madrid will be more receptive than those they are replacing.