A “bad decision” in the Gibraltar treaty negotiation would hit workers and companies in the Campo de Gibraltar that rely on Gibraltar for their livelihoods, a leading Spanish union said on Tuesday, adding a ‘no deal’ outcome would be “a socioeconomic catastrophe”.
The Campo branch of Comisiones Obreras [CCOO] was reacting to an interview earlier this week in which Jose Manuel Albares, Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said Spain and the EU were “ready for any scenario” in the talks, even while stressing: “Spain does not want the scenario of no agreement.”
The minister’s message received a lukewarm response from Manuel Triano, CCOO’s head in the Campo who also sits on the Cross-Frontier Group of unions and business representatives.
“It could be that Mr Albares considers that Spain is prepared for a breakdown without agreement of the negotiating process on relations between Gibraltar and the European Union,” Mr Triano said.
“What we’re unsure he has clarity on are what measures our country will adopt to mitigate the impact this eventuality would have on the Campo de Gibraltar economy.”
“We are conscious of the difficulties, but we cannot stop demanding of our politicians a solution that will allow everyone to overcome the state of uncertainty which thousands of people in this area have been living in for years.”
In a statement, the union said some 10,000 Spanish citizens crossed the border daily to work in Gibraltar, while “thousands more” worked for companies whose main clients were on the Rock.
It also noted that many businesses in the Campo, particularly in La Linea, relied on Gibraltarian clientele as a key part of their income.
“The Campo de Gibraltar in general and the city of La Linea in particular are not in a position to suffer another affront which, in the name of politics of state, risks a collapse in their difficult socioeconomic circumstances,” Mr Triano said.
“When the minister says Spain is ready for no deal, let him put faces to that and keep in mind that a bad decision could impact the lives of thousands of Campo citizens.”
A no deal outcome to the negotiation, he added, would be "a socioeconomic catastrophe".
In the interview with Europa Press news agency, Mr Albares said Spain and the EU had made a “reasonable, balanced” proposal in the negotiation.
But the UK and Gibraltar have made clear that aspects of that proposal, for example Spain’s aspiration for joint use of the airport, are unacceptable.
For now, the UK/EU negotiation is set to continue later this month.
In the run-up to Christmas after the 11th round of talks, the UK, the EU, Spain and Gibraltar reaffirmed their commitment to the negotiation, even while holding back on detail or setting out any tangible progress.
They made clear that complex areas of disagreement remain, but the message was one of common purpose toward the shared goal of reaching agreement.
All sides have said too that they will negotiate for as long as it takes and that there is no deadline.
But with general elections due this year in both Spain and Gibraltar, there is a sense of urgency to making progress, with Mr Albares stating on several occasions recently that the negotiation “cannot go on eternally”.