The GSD last night accused the Gibraltar Government of being “ineffective” in its efforts to “protect or make gains” for Gibraltar in the Brexit negotiations.
As the row between the two sides continued, the GSD insisted the Withdrawal Agreement was “a bad deal” for both Gibraltar and the UK, adding that Chief Minister Fabian Picardo was clinging on to the deal “as desperately as Prime Minister Theresa May”.
The GSD insisted the government should have obtained permanent benefits for Gibraltar when it negotiated issues relating to citizens’ rights and in particular frontier workers.
“This was an objective of the Spanish Government and the Government has very quickly gone along with allowing them to bag such benefits without getting something in exchange if the Withdrawal Agreement was to extend to Gibraltar,” the party said in a statement.
The Gibraltar Government had earlier dismissed the GSD’s claims that permanent gains should have been negotiated as part of the withdrawal process, arguing that this phase of the process was about withdrawal, not the future relationship.
But the GSD rejected this assessment. “In adopting that position [the Chief Minister] has totally misunderstood that it was important now to get concessions on permanent freedom of movement because it is now, if the withdrawal agreement goes through, that Spain will have protected its frontier workers permanently,” the GSD said.
It added that there was no point trying to negotiate freedom of movement in exchange for rights of frontier workers in the future because it would be too late.
“In saying that now was not the time to negotiate permanent arrangements Mr Picardo has also failed to understand that this is precisely what the so-called Irish backstop does – protect Northern Ireland from a hard border beyond 2020 if necessary,” the GSD said.
“In other words Northern Ireland has been given the benefit of something enduring which Mr Picardo thinks could not be done now.”
“He is wrong,” the GSD said, adding: “Why could he not have negotiated a Gibraltar backstop tailor-made to our circumstances that protected our freedom of movement beyond 2020?”
“In so far as the bilateralism of the Memorandum of Understanding’s these are obviously so and not cured by the Concordat,” the GSD said, adding that they were political agreements and as such should have been signed by all three governments.
It added that the Gibraltar Government’s arguments that it would not be feasible to make Gibraltar a party to an international treaty had no bearing on the Memorandum of Understanding, which it described as “simple political agreements”.
In his defence Mr Picardo had cited comments made by Sir Peter Caruana to support his argument that the Cordoba process was a different, trilateral political process.
“This is an unassailable acceptance by Mr Picardo that the Protocol and the Memorandum of Understanding’s are bilateral between the UK and Spain,” the GSD claimed.
Additionally the GSD said Mr Picardo had “completely avoided” responding to the criticism levied against his Government about the “twist and spin” portrayal of the MoU published by the Gibraltar Government.
These had differed from the original note because they included a “Notes for Interpretation” cover sheet which, according to the GSD, appeared to be part of the formal document.
“The fact this was done is a scandalous attempt to misrepresent how people should interpret the Memorandum of Understandings,” the GSD said.
“It is a fact that there will be Gibraltar Representation in the joint UK-Spain committees but the Government should not glorify these joint committees as some kind of agenda of reciprocity with Spain.”
The GSD said it was no accident that the committees deal with issues of tobacco, petrol, the environment, land reclamation or Gibraltar waters.
“This is a reflection of the unjustified Spanish agenda of long standing criticisms of Gibraltar.”
“If there was some neutral and reciprocal agenda of benefit why are there not committees dealing with issues less dominated by the now tired Spanish list of criticisms of money laundering, tax evasion, smuggling and waters?”
“Jointly these arrangements with the EU and Spain undermine control over Gibraltar, should the UK Parliament agree the Withholding Agreement. They amount to shared control on the subjects dealt with by the Protocol and so the Memorandum of Understanding’s.”
The GSD said Mr Picardo and the GSLP/Liberal Government admitted this in a statement this week, by describing it as “reciprocal cooperation”.
The GSD said this was “pure spin and convenient use of language”.
Control is shared because, in the absence of agreement with Spain, disputes will go to an EU/UK committee which Gibraltar does not control, the GSD added.
“Anything decided by this committee will be an international obligation of the UK.
If Gibraltar’s Parliament or Government does not implement it, the UK will either be in breach of its international obligation or to avoid that breach, will need to impose it directly.”
In so far as sax is concerned the GSD said the Government continues to hold back on publication of the tax agreement it is intending to enter into with Spain.
But the party insisted it should publish this now for the sake of clarity and certainty of the finance industry and give the people of Gibraltar a full picture of everything that has been agreed during these negotiations.
“Why is he holding the tax agreement back?” the party questioned. GSD Leader Keith Azopardi said: “Mr Picardo is now clinging on to this bad deal as desperately as Mrs May.”
“This is unsurprising as he is her biggest cheerleader.”
“But in doing so he is losing sight of the emerging options that may give us the opportunity of a choice between this bad deal and remaining in the EU.”
“As Mrs May returns to Brussels for the European Council on Thursday the Government needs to stay vigilant that there is no attempt to amend Art 184 of the withdrawal agreement on the pretext of the Irish backstop that in some ways prejudices Gibraltar.”