"Last Thursday started with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s “In my Opinion” piece (The strongest relationship), which read like an April Fool, until the realisation hit that he was being serious. It is a ‘cover my behind’ statement for two opposing possibilities: that of a UK-EU Brexit agreement engaging Gibraltar being seen by many here as pro-Spanish, whilst protecting himself against the chance and consequences of no agreement being reached. A politician’s perfect spin to safeguard himself on either divergent viewpoint coming about.
In addition, it is written in language, which is flattering of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Foreign Secretary, Mr Dominic Raab, himself. He makes statements, which, aside from showing how self-conscious he is, deny every pronouncement that the Chief Minister (or anyone) has ever made about self-determination.
Mr Picardo’s piece reads like an application for a knighthood or, perhaps, a seat in the House of Lords. Mr Raab and the FCDO must be nothing but pleasantly complimented by, and pleased with, our Chief Minister.
EXPRESSIONS OF CONCERN.
However, Mr Picardo’s opinion piece indicates a double concern.
Concern, on the one hand, that any agreement reached by the UK with the EU (read Spain) over Gibraltar will include the reality that it will forge closer links with Spain/EU, with the added worry being that, by necessity, it will create, and is already being seen by many as creating, a gap between us and the UK.
Alternatively, concern that a breakdown in the UK-EU(Spain) negotiations may lead to failure to arrive at a treaty.
However, that said, a treaty is currently the more likely outcome, from a reading of statements made over the last few days.
BOTH SITUATIONS NEED PEOPLE TO BE REASSURED OF GIBRALTAR’S UK LINK.
In both these scenarios, it is important, not to say crucial, for Mr Picardo to sell and emphasise the UK /Gibraltar relationship and connection.
In the first place, to convince, us and Spain, that the UK-Gibraltar link remains as strong as ever it will be, and that Spain has made no inroads. Further, that nothing that will be agreed, will erode this.
In the latter, to reassure us, and warn Spain, that the UK is there to support and sustain us should our public finances and economy be weakened (but presumably, not at levels that will allow for hugely favourable rewards in Gibraltar, when compared to UK public sector pay and the UK generally).
What is the motivation for the UK? Possibly, aside from the undoubted loyalty to Gibraltar:
(a) the maintenance of a much-needed Defence facility, as has been underlined in the last few days, by the announcement that a naval ship will be permanently based here.
(b) Foreign policy and Defence policy being aligned, in manner to suit progressive intentions with the EU/Spain; whilst
(c) allowing for the use of Gibraltar as a military forward base, at the least cost to the UK that is possible.
ARE THERE DOUBTS OVER THE STRENGTH OF THE LINK WITH THE UK?
Much of the above is seen by Mr Picardo’s insistence that Mr Raab’s visit was “… to celebrate the strength of the relationship between our respective governments”, and that “… it is remarkable to note that the Foreign Secretary was accompanied by the Minister for Europe and the Americas, Wendy Morton.”
Who has doubted that strength? Why the need for this self-conscious defensiveness, especially, if, as Mr Picardo emphasises, there is no fear of being let down? Mr Picardo, constantly, makes a huge effort and goes all the way to convince us that no one should be afraid of that happening.
30 MINUTES OF FACE TO FACE DISCUSSION!
Yes, as Mr Picardo writes, a Foreign Secretary can so easily, and without excuse, avoid a visit to Gibraltar, but he did not! We are grateful, and aware of the significance, despite the flying nature of the visit.
Over and above his arrival “on time”, and his attendance at the joint Ministerial Council, chaired by Mr Picardo, he gave all of “… half an hour of face-to-face discussions” to Mr Picardo and the Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Joseph Garcia. Wow! He arrived on time and gave them all of 30 minutes!
It is remarkable to see Mr Picardo expressing such appreciation to our colonial masters. I thought he did not believe we had such masters.
SUPPORT AND SUSTAIN.
There we go, Mr Picardo also indicates that the UK will give Gibraltar long-term support, pointing:
(a) to the UK having already given guaranteed financial services access to the UK; and
(b) our inclusion in new UK trade deals (of huge importance, considering the massive trade Gibraltar has with the rest of the world!).
CERTAINTY OF AGREEMENT.
Additionally, Mr Picardo reassures us that “we are getting real bandwidth in order to plan our negotiation in the best way to deliver a UK/EU Treaty on Gibraltar that works on all sides.” “And we have a team at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office which is working with us to deliver a treaty that will make us the only British territory with a fluidity agreement with the European Union.”
These two statements predict certainty of agreement. These, taken together with, Mr Raab’s comments that agreement is virtually there, and the confidence that Mr Raab preaches that a treaty will come about by the 30th June (a rare event: imposing a deadline to agree in international treaty negotiations), hints at the probability that large swathes of agreement may have been reached already.
So, is there something he knows that we do not? Mr Picardo, at the general election, you championed a policy of being open and transparent, where is that? Cut the spin, anda! Or are you not in the inner circle, despite your pretence otherwise?
NOTE: As published in the Gibraltar Chronicle on 7th April 2021."