GSD Leader Keith Azopardi last night took a swipe at the Gibraltar Government’s “euphoric” attitude towards the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, insisting that presenting the deal as ‘great for Gibraltar’ was a “massive stretch of the imagination”.
In doing so, Mr Azopardi, who was setting out the GSD’s assessment of recent Brexit developments in a broadcast on GBC last night, insisted that Chief Minister Fabian Picardo is fast becoming the sole “UK family” cheerleader of Theresa May and the deal.
“The Prime Minister’s deal is apparently rejected by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon,” Mr Azopardi said.
“The First Minister of Wales has said the Brexit deal doesn’t work for Wales. The DUP from Northern Ireland – coalition partners of Mrs May – are against it. And so are the Labour Opposition and prominent sectors of the Conservative Party.”
“And yet here in Gibraltar Mr Picardo would have you believe it is a wonderful deal,” he said.
“Perhaps it would be easier to be less sceptical if the Government’s presentation were less euphoric.”
“If what we were being told is that this deal is better than crashing out with no deal that is one thing. But to be told that this deal is a great deal for Gibraltar is a massive stretch of the imagination.”
Pending the party’s full evaluation of the deal, Mr Azopardi said: “We simply do not subscribe to that euphoria.”
The GSD has previously indicated that it will reserve judgment as to whether the withdrawal agreement represents a good or bad deal for Gibraltar once all Gibraltar-related documents are published.
But, Mr Azopardi said, the party does have some immediate and initial misgivings.
He explained that these include: “As to whether Spain have been given far too much of a say in our domestic affairs, whether the agreements are essentially bilateral and Gibraltar has made concessions watering down the achievement of trilateral talks by Sir Peter Caruana and whether in essence we have received very little in exchange for what we have given.”
“After all Spain has apparently protected its frontier workers and on top of that managed to exert pressure on tobacco and petrol prices and get a deal on the environment and tax.”
“Are these encroachments into our domestic affairs worth paying for simply a transitional arrangement of 21 months.”
And, in this regard, Mr Azopardi was keen to stress that the Opposition stands with the Government on the fundamentals of protecting Gibraltar from any Spanish threats.
“Quite frankly the political discourse from Mr Sanchez or the PP of Mr Casado or Mr Rivera’s Ciudadanos has been indistinguishable in recent days,” he said.
“It is deeply regrettable that supposedly modern politicians are waving the intransigent nationalism of the past as if the era of human rights and self-determination had not happened.”
Additionally, Mr Azopardi said: “We must also be conscious as a community that the UK’s national interests are different to ours.”
He said that whilst the sovereignty assurances of Mrs May were very welcome, the UK is leaving the EU on a clear basis that is contrary to Gibraltar’s own stated objectives.