Keith Azopardi yesterday described Fabian Picardo as “a weak Chief Minister” whose government has displayed “a lack of direction and low ambition” in the Brexit withdrawal negotiations.
In a biting statement, the latest in a string of exchanges with the Gibraltar Government on Brexit, the GSD Leader insisted again that the Gibraltar element of the Withdrawal Agreement was “a bad Brexit deal” that gave “some control” to Spain on Gibraltar’s affairs.
He was reacting after the Chief Minister said the practical agreements negotiated with the UK and Spain as part of that deal were a good base to build on should the Withdrawal Agreement fail to pass the House of Commons vote next week.
“That is a slippery slope that can only lead to Spain wanting more and expecting to extract more from a weak Chief Minister,” Mr Azopardi said.
“These statements illustrate how mistaken Mr Picardo is and how low his ambitions are.”
“Rather than seek arrangements that are enduring, positive for Gibraltar and recalibrate our relationship with the EU on a permanent basis he sets his sights low, on just proceeding on the basis of his bad deal and opening the door to Spain to ask for more control.”
“This is not what Gibraltar wants or needs. Gibraltar deserves greater ambition and imagination.”
“All this is why the GSD have said that the last two years have been a lost opportunity and Mr Picardo promises further lack of imagination.”
The GSD also decried Mr Picardo’s “personal attacks” on Mr Azopardi.
The Gibraltar Government had accused Mr Azopardi of putting his party political interests before those of Gibraltar as a whole, and has repeatedly pointed out that the GSD Leader is not an elected member of the Gibraltar Parliament.
“No one has put party interests over national interests more than Mr Picardo who refused to back the new constitution in a referendum after the GSLP helped negotiate it because he wanted to destabilise Peter Caruana when he was Chief Minister,” the GSD said.
“No one has put his own interests at the forefront of his political decisions more than Mr Picardo who switched from being a liberal to the GSLP because it was his only route to No.6.”
Conversely, the GSD claimed the most politically expedient thing in 2005 for Mr Azopardi would have been to remain in the GSD and await developments.
Instead he left the party on a principle because he disagreed with the merger with the Labour Party – the party formed by GSD MP Daniel Feetham – and “thought it was the right thing to do”.
In those decisions Mr Azopardi put principle over expediency unlike Mr Picardo, the GSD said.
Mr Azopardi added: “I have never hidden from that decision and explained my reasons both at the time and when I returned to the Party in 2017.”
“I did so to help it win the next election and because there is plenty going wrong in today’s Gibraltar – from mounting public debt to agency workers.”
“I am glad GSD members as well as Sir Peter Caruana and Daniel Feetham backed my return in 2017.”
“The fact that Mr Picardo is using increasingly terse language towards me is only because his GSLP Government failures are mounting up and he is trying to hide that. People in Gibraltar are tiring of the constant media spin of the Government.”