GSD Leader Keith Azopardi is risking damaging Gibraltar’s international negotiating position through his “incessant, unconstructive bluster” on Brexit, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said yesterday.
In the latest of what has now become a daily exchange of barbed statements, Mr Picardo said the GSD Leader’s attacks on his government’s handling of Brexit could undermine efforts to protect Gibraltar’s position in the withdrawal process.
He accused Mr Azopardi of putting his personal interests before those of Gibraltar and even those of the GSD.
“In his transparent desperation to get himself elected into Parliament under any party brand that will help propel him, Mr Azopardi is happily risking damaging Gibraltar’s international negotiating position without giving such serious potential consequences a second thought,” Mr Picardo said.
The Chief Minister was reacting after Mr Azopardo described him as “weak” and said he had set his sights too low in the Brexit negotiations.
Mr Azopardi has repeatedly stated that the Gibraltar Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement and its associated memorandums of understanding failed to achieve any enduring gains for Gibraltar, while also handing Spain a say in the affairs of this community.
But the Gibraltar Government has robustly rejected that position, and did so again yesterday.
“Mr Azopardi is blithely suggesting that the MoUs which we have negotiated to ensure Spain has no say in our affairs are somehow the opposite,” Mr Picardo said.
“That is not true by any objective assessment. Indeed, if what the unelected Mr Azopardi is saying were true, it would also have the consequent reciprocal effect of giving Gibraltar a say in Spain’s affairs.”
The Chief Minister said Mr Azopardi had been given advance sight of the texts of the agreement before they were made public and that he had not raised any concerns at the time, suggesting only the addition of three words.
Mr Azopardi has previously rejected that assessment and said he had seen the documents only for a short time the day before they were published and that he told the Chief Minister at the time that he would reserve his position.
Yesterday Mr Picardo said that Mr Azopardi’s approach to this issue was “consciously destructive” and driven by a desire for media coverage to avoid the GSD being overtaken by the fledgling party Together Gibraltar.
“This is a consciously destructive Azopardi who sees the GSD under his leadership being less popular even that it was under Daniel Feetham, who many saw as being ‘not of GSD stock’ and whose arrival in the party had prompted his own departure,” Mr Picardo said.
“The public can see clearly that the constructive Mr Azopardi of old has been replaced by a consciously destructive unelected Mr Azopardi who seems to have moved into a dangerous modus operandi where ‘the ends justifies the means’.”
“He appears quite ruthlessly happy to sacrifice matters in our core common interests as a community just to try to scrape a vote here or there from whoever his warped logic might mislead or confuse in his attempt to cause division in our community and polarise the debate on this sensitive matter of Brexit.”
“It says a lot.”
Mr Picardo said most voters would know that the GSLP/Liberal administration would never countenance any concessions to Spain.
“Our Cabinet, from Sir Joe Bossano through each and every man and woman represented in it, would never countenance any concessions,” he said.
“The unelected Mr Azopardi’s statements are fast becoming Gibraltar’s own staple diet of ‘fake news’.”
“Our nation can do without this incessant, unconstructive bluster at this sensitive time when we have so much to do.”
“That’s why I have done the responsible thing and said that I won’t be calling an election before the 29th March, however much it may be in my own Party’s interest and however much I might be childishly goaded into doing so by the desperate and unelected Mr Azopardi.”