The best way to take back control of the process of leaving the European Union would be to revoke the Article 50 notification and remove the EU’s ability to pressure the United Kingdom, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told Parliament yesterday.
Mr Picardo was speaking as part of an address updating MPs on Brexit following 48 hours of “unprecedented” developments in Westminster.
He told MPs that given the various permutations that remain possible, “we must hold our nerve and we must hold our heads up high, and we must hold on for any result.”
“But we must hope for developments that enable us, at best to remain in the European Union or at the very worst to leave, but with a deal.”
And he warned too that reports of Prime Minister Theresa May’s political demise “have been premature before”.
“We have heard for the better part of a year, in sometimes pretty distasteful terms, how she has entered the kill zone, how this is her week of reckoning et cetera, et cetera,” he said.
“We’ve heard it week after week. And yet she may still emerge as the ‘Rocky Balboa’ type, with a last second victory for her deal.”
“But if it came to it and we were asked for our advice, what I would say to all colleagues in Westminster is that the best way to take back control of the process of leaving would be to revoke the Article 50 notification and remove the EU’s ability to pressure the United Kingdom.”
The Chief Minister was speaking after MPs in the House of Commons dramatically rejected crashing out of the European Union without a deal at any time and under any circumstances, in a decision that is not yet legally-binding but reflects the UK parliament’s position.
The development means the UK and Gibraltar are closer to a ‘no deal’ Brexit being ruled out entirely.
But Mr Picardo urged caution, not least because the Commons was voting on an extension to the Brexit deadline.
“We are not safely there yet,” he told parliament.
“For now, the default position in law is still that we leave on March 29, deal or no deal.”
GSD MP Daniel Feetham asked whether there was any indication that Spain would use any extension to the Brexit deadline to extract its “pound of flesh” from Gibraltar and, if so, whether the UK would defend the Rock.
The Chief Minister told MPs that he was assured that the UK would defend Gibraltar, adding that when Spain had taken similar positions in the past, “this Prime Minister has defended Gibraltar”.
“If there is the slightest hint that the UK Government is going to cede anything sought by Spain in respect of Gibraltar, which is detrimental to Gibraltar, in the context of seeking an extension, then the only thing [MPs] will see on every channel of television in the UK is this Chief Minister of Gibraltar telling citizens of the UK and every parliamentarian and every member of the executive the only satisfactory solution to that is a revocation of Article 50 which can be unilateral and does not rely on any kibosh from Spain,” Mr Picardo said.
Mr Picardo’s update was welcomed by Opposition members.
The Leader of the Opposition, Elliott Phillips, echoed many of the sentiments expressed by the Chief Minister but caveated that support with a jibe at Mr Picardo’s position in respect of the Withdrawal Agreement.
That agreement has been rejected twice by the UK Parliament and “no one will forget the comments by the Chief Minister in November [last] year in which he overtly supported Mrs May’s agreement and was probably the only person to do so,” Mr Phillips said.
Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon called for clarity and the release of further information to the community in respect of contingency planning including budgeting for whatever eventuality transpires.