Spain’s Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, said a change of government in Madrid later this month would end the dialogue that has underpinned efforts to reach a UK/EU treaty for the Rock’s future and ensured relative normality at the border despite Brexit.
Mr Grande-Marlaska, a Socialist, was speaking to Campo online media outlet Area during a campaign visit to the region ahead of the July 23 general election.
With polls pointing to the possibility of a Partido Popular government propped up by the far-right party Vox, Mr Grande Marlaska said that that risked undermining efforts to reach agreement over Gibraltar’s future relations with the bloc.
The minister was in campaign mode and quipped that there would be no change in Madrid.
But if there was, “… obviously what would happen is that the dialogue would disappear.”
“Dialogue would cease to be, so to speak, the primary political tool.”
“What we have established from the beginning is dialogue as the primary political tool, the need to reach agreements, each one with their needs, each one with their own characteristics, and evidently, in the end, to seek what benefits one and the other, which in this sense benefits the community as a whole.”
Mr Grande-Marlaska said the Socialist government remained “determined” to reach agreement on a treaty.
He spoke again of the desire to establish an area of shared prosperity between the Campo and Gibraltar, and the key aim must be to improve the lives of citizens on both sides of the border.
“That is why I say that something would be lost [if there is a change of government] and if dialogue is lost, politics is lost and that is what would happen,” he said, adding: “But of course... it will not happen.”
Mr Grande-Marlaska said that if there was agreement, then EU and Schengen immigration rules would have to be complied with, but played down concerns in Gibraltar about what that might mean in practice.
“I don’t believe that there is a problem and that is also a consequence of this dialogue and the need to ensure that when we decide, we do so in a manner that is focused on citizens from one place and the other, and to guarantee the livelihoods of one and the other in as reasonable a manner as possible… and not try to impose our will at any cost,” he said.
“The agreement has to be framed within the law and within the bounds of what is possible, and that’s what we’re doing.”