Chief Minister Fabian Picardo fired back at Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday night, dismissing his claims that Spain had secured “historic” gains in its sovereignty aspirations over Gibraltar.
In a stern message, he said Gibraltar would never renounce its British sovereignty and urged Mr Sanchez to “abandon the politics” on Gibraltar of Spanish dictator General Franco.
Mr Picardo was reacting to Mr Sanchez’ statement after news that a last-minute agreement had been reached to defuse the Brexit row over Gibraltar ahead of a crucial EU summit on Sunday to rubber-stamp the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
Spain claims it has a secured decisive voice over whether any future deal between the EU and the UK will be applied to Gibraltar.
“We have received sufficient guarantees to be able to reach a solution to a conflict that has lasted more than 300 years between the United Kingdom and Spain,” Mr Sanchez told reporters in Madrid, adding that Spain would again table its joint sovereignty proposal in the second phase of Brexit negotiations.
But Mr Picardo said the commitments from EU states were political and not legally-binding.
He highlighted too that the UK had made clear that it would negotiate for the whole UK family including Gibraltar, and the text of the Withdrawal Agreement had not been altered.
He dismissed Mr Sanchez’ boast that Spain now had a “triple guarantee” in respect of Gibraltar and sovereignty.
“In fact, if anyone has a triple guarantee in respect of Gibraltar it is us, the People of Gibraltar,” he said a live broadcast on GBC.
“We have a triple lock on our sovereignty.”
“The first lock is the sacred Constitutional commitment that the UK will never transfer our sovereignty against our wishes.”
“The second lock is that the UK will never even start a process of sovereignty discussions with which we are not content.”
“And the third lock is the most cast iron of all: We are the third lock.”
“The fact that we, the People of Gibraltar, will never consent to such a process being undertaken.”
“So in respect of the statement from Mr Sanchez that Spain will table the issue of joint sovereignty in talks about the future trading relationship between Gibraltar and the EU, I have one answer.”
“We do not need to wait until the start of the talks. I can tell Spain now.”
“We are not interested in any dilution of our sovereignty, we are not interested in allowing for even the remotest concession to Spanish sovereignty, jurisdiction or control.”
Earlier this evening, Prime Minister Theresa May had herself underscored the UK’s commitment to upholding Gibraltar’s British sovereignty and defending the right to self-determination of the Gibraltarian people.
“We will always negotiate on behalf of the whole UK family, including Gibraltar,” Mts May said on arriving for talks in Brussels with Donald Tusk, the chairman of EU leaders’ summit that is due to approve the Brexit deal on Sunday.
“We have worked through the withdrawal issues for Gibraltar in a constructive and sensible way,” she said.
“We have ensured that Gibraltar is covered by the whole agreement and by the implementation period.”
Mr Picardo said that nothing that had happened today changed the fact that the Withdrawal Agreement and it’s transitional period would apply to Gibraltar, thereby ensuring a soft landing after Brexit next year.
And he said the commitments given by EU members to Mr Sanchez were “no more than a political position” that was not shared by either the UK or Gibraltar.
And as he concluded, Mr Picardo took a tough verbal swipe at Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister.
“Like many people around the world, I welcome the fact that he is acting to move the bones of the fascist General Franco from Valle de los Caídos,” he said.
“But I must tell him that whilst he pursues the sovereignty of Gibraltar in the manner that he has today, he is doing no more than pursuing the policy bidding of the Generalissimo himself.”
“I sincerely hope he changes course.”
“Because abandoning the politics of Franco in respect of the sovereignty of Gibraltar would be a more effective way of turning over a new leaf.”
“Better that than simply moving the bones of a dead man from one part of Madrid to another.”
Mr Picardo said Gibraltar would “hold its nerve” because it knew it had acted “properly and honourably” in the manner in which it had negotiated its orderly withdrawal from the EU.
“We will continue to act sensibly and in the interests of all those who cross the frontier every day as we look to the future,” he said.
“We will preserve everything that we hold dear.”
“And, together with Britain, we will build a better, stronger and more prosperous British Gibraltar every day.”
“Rest assured that our position is safe and secure.”