The GSD said yesterday that the Gibraltar Government had “dropped the ball” in the course of Brexit negotiations by “not protecting Gibraltar or securing enduring benefits” for its people, as it fired the latest salvo in a row over the divorce deal.
The Opposition was responding to a statement issued by No.6 Convent Place the day before in which it accused the GSD and its leader, Keith Azopardi, of an “amateurish” analysis of the divorce deal that betrayed “a lack of substance and basic knowledge” on key issues, as well as cracks in the party’s stance on Brexit.
The exchanges showed no signs of abating yesterday, with the GSD insisting that the reality of the effect of the Withdrawal Agreement was “well-removed from the spin” of Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.
Additionally, Mr Azopardi accused the Chief Minister of making a strategic mistake in backing Prime Minister Theresa May “to the hilt” when it would have been prudent to await developments to see if the emerging political dynamic in the UK delivers Gibraltar a better deal or the chance of remaining in the EU.
The GSD flagged how the deal has very few supporters in the UK.
“Indeed as we have observed before Mr Picardo appears to be Mrs May’s biggest cheerleader,” the GSD said in its statement, adding that Mrs May cannot get this deal through the UK Parliament in the current form.
“The UK press is awash with reports of how a majority of UK Parliamentarians think it is a bad deal for the UK.”
“But we are asked to believe by Mr Picardo that this is somehow a good deal for Gibraltar.”
“It is incredible to be asked to believe the opposite of what most people are saying the effect of this deal is and that somehow Mr Picardo has masterfully been the only one to pull off a success.”
According to the GSD, the draft agreement provides Spain a say in Gibraltar’s affairs and protects frontier workers permanently.
The Gibraltar Protocol is six pages long. The part of the Withdrawal Agreement that covers and protects the people of Northern Ireland is 170 pages long, the GSD flagged.
“There is an enduring Irish backstop to prevent the Irish border becoming a hard border. There is no Gibraltar backstop of an enduring nature at our border,” the party said.
“Frontier workers are given permanent protection but not Gibraltarians living and working in Gibraltar who wish to cross the border beyond 2020.”
Mr Azopardi said: “Part of the problem is that Mr Picardo has no consistency. He is a political shapeshifter that argues one thing one day and another diametrically opposite position the next as if everyone has collective amnesia.”
“And in doing so he seeks to manipulate the facts and distort the truth,” he said.
“When he is found out he is not prepared to admit the facts but rather resorts to yet another shapeshifting position and a round of finger-pointing to confuse the issues.”
Mr Azopardi flagged how, in the course of the Brexit debate, Mr Picardo had argued that Gibraltar could achieve a reverse Greenland solution, freedom of movement and single market access or a unique tailor-made solution for Gibraltar.
“He is now backing Mrs May who seeks to end freedom of movement ‘once and for all’ and seeks to end single market access,” he said.
“He is now even defending Mrs May’s interpretation of the Irish backstop which so many UK Parliamentarians disagree with and has caused her to return to Brussels cap in hand today.”
“He has ditched any pretence at achieving a unique positive situation for Gibraltar except one that has allowed Spain a say in our affairs for the next 21 months.”
“He has given away the biggest bargaining chip on frontier workers for nothing permanent.”
“He has both argued in favour and against a People’s vote and now says his preference is a revocation of the Article 50 notification which of course is totally the opposite of his cheerleading for Mrs May’s deal.”
“His inconsistency reveals a total lack of strategic direction by the Government in these negotiations. Mr Picardo has no real idea of where he is going or how to get there.”
“In the course of his lack of direction, he has made the strategic mistake of backing Mrs May to the hilt when it would have been prudent to await developments to see if the emerging political dynamic in the UK delivers Gibraltar a better deal or the chance of remaining in the EU.”
“Instead and for the moment he is fast becoming a voice in the political wilderness in the UK totally out of touch with the political mood in Westminster.”
“This will have detrimental effects on Gibraltar should there be a change of UK Prime Minister or change of UK Government which sooner or later seems inevitable.”
“Mr Picardo also seems intent in continuing his distortion and misrepresentation of the effects of the Gibraltar deal.”
“The GSD stand by the criticisms we have made of the deal. This is not a good deal for Gibraltar. It is Mr Picardo’s deal and he can defend it if he wishes at the next election.”