As the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo keeps a close eye on political developments in Spain and the wider EU. And as the leader of a Socialist party, he is troubled by surge in support for far right parties in Europe including Vox in Spain.
The recent elections in Andalucia saw Vox win 12 seats and a deciding voice in the regional parliament, with many polls now predicting the party will break through and win MPs in the forthcoming general election in Spain.
But while the influence of parties such as Vox on mainstream politics is of concern, Mr Picardo played down any knock-on effect on Gibraltar.
“I don’t like it, but I don’t think Gibraltarians need to worry about who wins or loses elections in Spain,” he said.
“We know that if the right is in power in Spain, we’ll read more drivel about Gibraltar and there may or may not be longer queues at the frontier.”
“If the left wins in Spain, we’ll feel a little more relaxed about the issue and experience deep disappointment when they sometimes tack toward the right on the issue of Gibraltar.”
“But the integrity of Gibraltar, of what we do in business, of how we manage our growth and prosperity, is unaffected by whatever may happen in Spain.”
“We’re a nation in our own right and in our relationship with the UK and, in future, with the wider Commonwealth, there is enough in the world for us to be able to do business and create prosperity for this community whatever happens in Spain.”
Mr Picardo cautioned too against simplistic analyses of how particular political ideologies in Spain deal with the issue of Gibraltar.
He described, for example, how the Partido Popular’s former Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis, had been “more liberal and open” on Gibraltar than the current socialist incumbent Josep Borrell.
During the Brexit negotiations, more breakthroughs were achieved with the PP in office than with the PSOE.
“You never saw Mariano Rajoy say anything as tough or legally wrong as Pedro Sanchez did on the eve of the special European Council [on the Withdrawal Agreement],” he said.
Mr Picardo said Gibraltar’s default setting in its relations with Spain – and with the UK for that matter – was to adopt a “sceptical and cynical” approach to any negotiation.
But he stressed too that Gibraltar should remain open to positive and constructive cross-border relations and dialogue for the good of communities on either side of the frontier fence.
“I’m not a proponent of saying ‘let’s turn our back on Spain’,” he said.
“But if Spain turns its back on us, we will be able to survive and thrive as much as if we are interacting with Spain.”
“We want a good relationship with Spain, but we will not flounder or fail if we don’t have a good relationship with Spain.”
“That’s been the reality of the success of this community under successive Chief Ministers in the past 75 years, and it’s not going to change.”
“We must not be jaded in our approach to Spain by Spain’s approach to us, but we must be careful and we must ensure that we don’t for one moment let down our guard or give anything away.”