The practical agreements negotiated by Gibraltar, the UK and Spain as part of the withdrawal negotiations are “a useful basis to build on” but are “not legally effective” in their own right, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said yesterday.
Mr Picardo was reacting to comments by Spain’s state secretary for European affairs, Marco Aguiriano, who said yesterday that the agreements were independent of the Withdrawal Agreement and has “their own life” in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
“The memorandums are part of the contingency plan even though they were not conceived as such,” Mr Aguiriano said.
He was referring to the Memorandums of Understanding that stem from the Gibraltar Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement and envisage cooperation in areas such as the environment, tobacco, law enforcement and citizens’ rights.
The Gibraltar Government’s position is that without a Withdrawal Agreement, there is no Gibraltar Protocol or memorandums.
But it has also signalled that it is ready to adapt the agreements to ensure a soft withdrawal in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
“Our position remains as I told the Gibraltar Parliament at the end of last year,” Mr Picardo said.
“Legally, the MoUs take effect only if the Withdrawal Agreement comes into effect.”
“Without the Withdrawal Agreement, the MoUs are not legally effective.”
“As I said in December, they are, nonetheless, a useful basis to build on to soften the blow of a no-deal Brexit.”
Mr Aguiriano was speaking as the governments of Spain and the UK signed an agreement to safeguard voting rights in local elections for their citizens residing in the other country regardless of the way Brexit unfolds.
Britain’s Brexit minister Robin Walker said the agreement is the first of its kind for Britain with a member of the European Union.
Mr Walker was in Madrid for the signing on Monday.
Some 300,000 British citizens living in Spain and 175,000 Spaniards who are resident in Britain and Northern Ireland will be able to vote and run in local elections that both countries are due to hold in May, officials have said.
Mr Aguiriano said the agreement will enter force with Britain’s departure from the EU, whether at the end of March as initially planned or later and with or without an agreement between the two sides.