The publication, yesterday, of the EU Commission (“EC”) negotiating mandate is a hard put down of Spain’s accords over Gibraltar, as made public in the Framework Agreement (“Framework”). Spain, an EU member, has agreed one thing, the EC ignores that member, pushing, like Oliver, for more. The Spanish Government has been embarrassed by the EC, to be polite.
The publication of this mandate also eclipses the Budget, which is irrelevant anyway, but more so in the face of the EC rebuff.
It seems there will be no negotiation for a post-Brexit EU-UK deal over Gibraltar. That being so what has been announced in the Budget, also yesterday, is futile. The provisions of the Budget will not meet the circumstances that will come about from Gibraltar not being included in some way within the EU. A second budget will be necessary.
The GSLP Government reacted to the EC mandate without delay.
It highlights, rightly, that the EC mandate “strays unhelpfully from the Framework Agreement”. That puts reality mildly.
The tenderness of that statement is starkly contrasted by the next point made by the Government, “As a result, the mandate may, unfortunately, not form the basis for the negotiation of an agreement on a UK treaty with the EU.”
The use of the word “may”, is self-conscious and betrays weakness, despite that the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo goes on to emphasise that “on the basis of the current draft, there is no possibility of this forming the basis for an agreement.” In brief, that a negotiation is pointless.
NO PROVISION IN BUDGET FOR NON-AGREEMENT
We are also told that “work to be ready in the event that there may not be negotiated outcome with the EU and that Gibraltar will not enjoy a treaty relationship with the EU”, continues. None of that is evident from any provision announced by Mr. Picardo in the budget yesterday. He merrily continues to walk a path as if nothing had changed.
It can only mean that the announced Budget is temporary, with the true budgetary measures are being secretly concocted, with a second Budget following in a few weeks or months. The lack of GSLP promised “openness and transparency” carries on blatantly.
The speed of Gibraltar’s reaction to the publication of the EC mandate was matched by the UK. The strength of the UK rebuff to the mandate was even greater than that of Gibraltar’s.
The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, makes no bones about it, stating that “The Commission’s proposed mandate … directly conflicts with that Framework.”. He goes so far as to say that “It seeks to undermine the UK’s sovereignty over Gibraltar, and cannot form a basis of negotiations.”
Yes, the UK are more upfront than Mr. Picardo’s GSLP Government. It sees there is no basis for a negotiation, i.e. do not waste our time!
ANY CHANCE OF A NEGOTIATION?
One conclusion is clear, there will be no negotiation based on the EC mandate as currently drafted. It will be for the EU Council of Ministers to possibly repair the damage done by the EC.
A second, conclusion is also clear, the EC mandate is a slap in the face to Spain who negotiated the Framework. Spain must be desperately trying to recover some credibility by attempting to save the position envisaged by the Framework.
As predicted in the blog of yesterday, not only has the Framework put Spain onside with the UK and Gibraltar, but “The initial test for the forthcoming negotiations will come about when the EC makes its negotiating mandate public … It may lay the ground to put Spain as the good nation, arguing Gibraltar’s position, in the face of opposition from other EU member states.”
The venue for this will be when the EC mandate goes for approval to the EU Council of Ministers, again as mentioned in yesterday’s blog, “Spain will likely have to bat for Gibraltar at that level”.
The ability to save negotiations rest on the shoulders of Spain. It will need to convince the EU Council of Ministers to put the mandate on track with the Framework.
If that fails, forget the Budget, and let us start preparing for life in a very different world than that of today. All the lengthy words of Mr Picardo, in his Budget speech, will be, as the Spanish saying goes, “palabras al viento”.
Yes Mr Picardo, you have said that this is the hardest Budget since the closure of the frontier. Really? It does absolutely nothing to alleviate or face up to the reality of what Gibraltar faces or will face. It is a sidestep of Giant’s Causeway proportions. Surely, that Budget will be so much harder?
The magnified financial difficulties faced by Gibraltar are due to Mr. Picardo and his GSLP Government. We have had GSLP years of overspending, misspending and overborrowing, rather than of caution considering Gibraltar’s size and internationally fragile position.
Yes, of course COVID has brought the financial difficulties to a head. But Mr. Picardo, your GSLP Government’s mismanagement has left Gibraltar in a much worse position to face that situation. Gibraltar would have been better placed to meet the circumstances if more financial caution had ruled the day.
GSLP TO BLAME FOR FINANCIAL DOWNSIDE
Mr. Picardo, you cannot escape that reality. You have caused, over and above the COVID effect, our increased financial weakness. That fragility will undermine our ability to resist the financial consequences of the lack of a deal with the EU.
Mr. Picardo you promised to halve the public debt. You have tripled it!
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi did a great job in replying to your Budget spin, which is what your speech was.
As he said, your debt, waste, abuse, and overspending has put us “in financial ICU”. It is the GSLP Government’s, headed by you Mr. Picardo, recklessness which has created a situation where we are substantially financially weaker to meet the COVID effect, and now, the likely downside of Brexit, without a Gibraltar deal.
Mr. Picardo, as Mr Azopardi also said, “It is not your money. It is the people’s money.”
To make matters worse, you do not take from the rich, you take from the poor to cover for your financial mismanagement. Most of your measures hurt the poor more than the rich, for example, the increases in Social Security and in electricity charges.
The GSLP Government under Mr. Picardo, has meandered on for five years in a financial mess, knowing that Brexit was coming. It has made no provision for it. It has continued overspending and over borrowing as if we were never going to hit the wall.
Well, what now, Mr. Picardo? I look forward to hearing your solutions. Yes, COVID has some blame attached to it, but it does not excuse your financial recklessness in dealing with the people’s money.