From ‘mammoth task’ of treaty implementation to no deal, Garcia sketches out Brexit outcomes

Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia sketched out various scenarios faced by Gibraltar in the coming months as a result of Brexit, ranging from the “mammoth task” of implementing any treaty agreed by the UK and the EU, to dealing with the impact of no deal if talks collapse.

Speaking during a budget address in Parliament, and with an eye of the forthcoming election in Gibraltar, Dr Garcia the GSLP/Liberals were best placed to deal with any of those potential outcomes.

Dr Garcia said the general election in Spain on July 23 had “obviously” impacted the talks but that even before it was called, Spain’s decision to introduce “new elements” into the negotiation had proved an obstacle to an earlier agreement because they touched on sovereignty.

“The proposal on the table, therefore, was not safe, secure or beneficial for Gibraltar,” he said.

“And it will fall on whoever is elected in Madrid to continue the discussions, or indeed to discontinue them.”

“The final approach will probably depend on the political complexion of the new Spanish administration.”

Dr Garcia reflected on the GSLP/Liberals’ first term in office after the 2011 election, when the Partido Popular was in government in Madrid and there was tension in Gibraltar/Spain relations.

He said the Government brought “plenty of collective experience” in dealing with difficult politics from Madrid.

“So if the Partido Popular were to win, with or without Vox, people should know that their Government is prepared,” he said.

“In the event that the PSOE-Sumar coalition were to renew their mandate, we are also best prepared to take the treaty negotiations to a safe conclusion.”

“So the message is that we stand ready to protect Gibraltar whatever the future may hold.”

Dr Garcia said negotiators were close to an agreement but that it was still conceivable that the talks could yet end in no deal.

“Given the new elements introduced by Spain, it is conceivable that the talks could collapse,” he said.

“So those sovereignty and jurisdictional concerns may catapult Gibraltar into a no treaty scenario.”

“Honourable Members will be clear that there are certain fundamental lines that this Government will not cross.”

“There are those who argue that the conclusion of a treaty has taken too long.”

“Clearly, had we signed up to everything Madrid and Brussels wanted in October 2021, then we would have had a treaty 19 months ago.”

“However, the reason for the timescale is precisely because the UK and Gibraltar have held the line.”

“That is what a negotiation is all about.”

“We remain determined to continue to do battle in order to secure a treaty which is safe, secure and beneficial for Gibraltar,” he added.

“The Government remains firm in the belief that this is the best option for the future, for our families and our children, for our businesses and our citizens, and for our country as a whole.”

In the event a treaty can be agreed, Dr Garcia said the next challenge would be its practical implementation.

This would involve a considerable amount of legal, political and technical work in order to ensure the smooth operation of the process as any new treaty comes into force.

“Implementation will be a mammoth task,” Dr Garcia said.

And he added: “The Government remain in the best position to see this workstream through until the end.”

“The Chief Minister and I have been present at every high-level meeting.”

“Issues have been discussed and commitments have been given in our presence.”

“Policies have been formulated in front of us and decisions have been taken.”

“So we can hold Spain and the EU to account for what they have said to us in private.”

“We have been immersed in the detail of this world for some seven years now.”

“It has, to a considerable degree, taken over our lives.”

“And we know the issues, the personalities and the discourse inside out.”

Dr Garcia also reflected on preparations for a “non-negotiated outcome”, as a no deal scenario is referred to.

In that respect, Gibraltar has been working closely with the UK to prepare contingency plans in areas as diverse as commerce, critical services, waste management, health and social care, law and order, legal and EU matters, public services, special projects and the supply chain.

Around 60 technical notices have been published and two booklets sent to thousands of homes on the Rock.

“This NNO work has been guided by the need to balance the dissemination of information in a sensitive way which does not create a general panic,” Dr Garcia said, thanking the Opposition for “respecting this delicate balance”.

He said the government was grateful for the bridging measures applied by Spain for residents with a red ID card – he regretted this could not be applied to other registration cards – and said that, without them, the default would be passport stamping for everyone.

And while in other areas such as reciprocal healthcare, road haulage and cross-border ambulance services, bridging measures had come to an end, Spain’s approach had benefited Gibraltar.

“The helpful consequence of this staggered approach has been to soften the landing zone as we left the European Union,” he said.

“The Government sincerely hopes that, in the coming months, we may be able to conclude a treaty on the future relationship of Gibraltar with the EU.”

“However, in the event that we do not, Gibraltar will need to adapt to the new world that no treaty will thrust upon us.”

“There are many areas where no mitigation is possible.”

“The new scenario will simply reflect life outside the European Union.”