In his recent GBC interview, the GSLP Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said, on the one hand, that we would not like the opening gambit of the EU in its negotiating mandate for a Brexit treaty over Gibraltar. He said that we would find it ‘disagreeable’.
Yet, immediately after, he said that the EU mandate would be within the parameters of the framework agreement, which he and the GSLP have agreed. That being so he, and the GSLP, will have to like the mandate, which cannot be bad in those circumstances, unless the EU chooses to embarrass its member Spain.
He went on to emphasise that the GSLP will not go with a ‘bad’ agreement, but who decides what is bad? The GSLP, it seems, as he discards the holding of a referendum.
WILL EU KEEP TO FRAMEWORK
If the EU keeps strictly within the structure of the framework agreement, what will there be for Mr. Picardo and the GSLP not to like? That frame has been accepted fully by them.
Is Mr. Picardo suggesting that the EU will break Spain’s parameters in the framework agreement, and so embarrass Spain. His statement that we will not like the EU’s opening negotiating mandate indicates that, as well as the likelihood that he has seen the mandate.
If he is implying that the EU will take a position different from the framework agreement, then the value of that agreement, which is with Spain alone, is tiny at an EU level. All those negotiations, going to the wire on New Year’s Eve, would have been a waste of time. Surely the EU is not there?
It would seem unlikely that the EU will place its member, Spain, in such an embarrassing position. Surely there would have been sufficient EU involvement in the framework agreement, prior to Spain’s agreement to it, to avoid that scenario.
LIMITED VALUE OF FRAMEWORK
If the EU move in a different direction, the value of the framework agreement would then be twofold only. To have bought time to maintain a fluid frontier temporarily, and to have got Spain onside with us and the UK to push the EU to a place that suits Spain, and to where the GSLP have agreed Gibraltar should go.
A place defined in the explanations for the framework agreement, namely, to achieve that frontier fluidity, whilst negotiations for a treaty take place. A negotiation that does not limit the EU to matters identified and, in outline, resolved in the framework agreement.
GIBRALTAR LEFT INDEBTED TO SPAIN?
So, Spain it seems is now on our side helping to negotiate with the EU for a treaty with the UK over Gibraltar. What an achievement. Spain is an ally, assisting to fight Gibraltar’s corner with the EU. That is a first in over 300 years of British rule and sovereignty.
Doesn’t that give Spain all the practical ability to get Gibraltar what it needs to prosper, and share that prosperity with the Campo de Gibraltar (Campo)? For once the GSLP has put us in a place where Gibraltar is indebted to Spain.
Yet in contradiction, Mr Picardo argues that he will not accept a bad treaty. Where will that leave us? It seems in agreement with Spain, but in disagreement with the rest of the EU. What an odd place for Gibraltar to be left in.
EU LIKELY TO RESPECT SPAIN
In a more probable scenario, the EU will likely respect Spain’s position as contained in the framework agreement. After all, the EU has repeatedly said that it will behave on the issue of Gibraltar taking primordially into account Spain’s wishes and interests.
If that is so, then Mr. Picardo’s prediction, that we will not like the EU’s opening gambit, will not prove to be right, save perhaps in the detail, which will need to be negotiated. It will not prove fatal to any treaty.
EU, NOT SPAIN TO BLAME?
So why is Mr. Picardo saying what he is saying?
He is playing his usual politics, “poniendo el parche antes que la herida”. If there is no treaty, he can argue that he succeeded in his negotiations with Spain, but all failed with the EU. In this way he can places the blame on the EU in the very unlikely scenario that no deal is reached.
If there were to be no deal, it is the EU that will have caused any suffering in Gibraltar and the Campo. On the other side of the same equation, it gives Spain the ability to tell the Campo that it tried and succeeded with the UK and Gibraltar, but that the EU caused any failure leading to any suffering.
GSLP ARE THE ONLY JUDGES OF A GOOD OR BAD DEAL
Yes, Mr Picardo, you will walk away from any bad deal, but you alone, with the GSLP Government, will be the judges of what will be a good or bad deal for Gibraltar.
It will be you and the GSLP who will be judged at a General Election, as to whether your choice of what is a good deal, will be liked by the electorate: that will also be a judgment of what you have already agreed, namely the framework agreement.
We shall wait and see patiently, whilst Mr. Picardo plays out his politics. In the meantime, the reality is that a deal with the EU is necessary and will come about. The sovereignty implications, which will be there of necessity, are yet to be seen in the detail and considered.