Spain is on our side in the negotiations that will lead to an EU-UK Treaty over Gibraltar, based on the outline of the recent framework agreement, or so Juan Gonzalez-Barba, Spain’s State Secretary for European Union Affairs has indicated, following closely on what successive Spanish Foreign Ministers have been doing and saying.
He said, last week, that, convincing the European Commission (“EC”) to follow the framework has not been easy, but Spain has managed to achieve it. It is a framework, which Fabian Picardo’s GSLP Government has negotiated, agreed, and supported fully, as being good for Gibraltar.
Does all that foretell well for a ‘British’ Gibraltar seeking self-determination?
It remains to be seen, but for us to safeguard who we are, we must be resolute in maintaining and protecting our ‘British’, and different, institutions and customs. The biggest threat of a treaty comes from slow assimilation, due to dilution That is something which must be resisted, individually and collectively, with public education playing a huge part in the process.
A FIRST FOR GIBRALTAR
The framework agreement is certainly a first, as will be any treaty that comes out of it. Gibraltar and Spain are and will be rowing the same boat together, when history, for centuries, shows only wars, sieges, economic sanctions, battles, argument, and difference between us both.
How this development will go down with Gibraltar generally remains to be seen, as and when any treaty is made public. It certainly will put the GSLP Government to the test fully, to the extent that one awaits whether it will survive as one.
Mr. Picardo’s stated position that there will be no Spanish boots on Gibraltar, within or beyond four years, is seemingly maintained. Spanish boots are not needed, for control to be exercised by the EU through Spain. Control, however, does involve elements of sovereignty, the extent will depend on what powers and rights are handed to the EU.
The initial test for the forthcoming negotiations will come about when the EC makes its negotiating mandate public, supposedly, this week. 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.
Mr. Gonzalez-Barba has revealed that the EC negotiating mandate must overcome another hurdle: approval by the EU Council of Ministers. Spain will likely have to bat for Gibraltar at that level of the discussions also.
Those disapproving EU members at the Council of Ministers, if any, will be seen to have compromised in favour of Gibraltar at the insistence of Spain, and to appease it. In brief, Spain on our side!
Mr. Picardo has already said aspects of the mandate will be “disagreeable”, only to go on to reassure that, in the past, negotiations have successfully softened the pill to be swallowed. But it seems, a pill there will be.
Those potential obstacles are reflected, also, by Mr. Gonzalez-Barba, who aside from publicising the reality of difficulties already faced in convincing the EC, has equally made a warning public, that whilst a treaty will prosper, there will be a need for all parties to make concessions.
Further, Mr. Gonzalez-Barba admits that the proposals, to the EU, over Gibraltar are unprecedented, requiring it to accept ad hoc measures. That is not something that the EU is generally equipped to do. The EU tends to play by, and stick to rules, precisely in order not to create precedents for other members to seek advantage from.
Remaining within the bounds of what already exists in the EU is likely part of what the EC President was referring to, when she alluded to any arrangement, over Gibraltar, having to fall within the wider test of the “interests” of the EU.
OPTIMISM PERSISTS IN SELLING THE DEAL
All that said, Mr. Gonzalez-Barba expresses huge optimism that a treaty, closely following the framework agreement, will be forthcoming. He says that, in the context of saying, “Ultimately, everyone has to win, that’s the important thing, and everyone has to cede something.”
All in all, it sounds as if a huge treaty ‘selling exercise’ is being undertaken on both sides of our border. A distraction to avoid the age-old prejudices of Gibraltar coming to the front to undermine a process that knows only one direction, namely, agreement bringing Gibraltar within the influence of the EU, within which Spain, as the neighbouring state, will be Gibraltar’s necessary emissary.
NEW FOREIGN MINISTER ONSIDE TO ACHIEVE SHARED OBJECTIVES
What he revealed, also, as predicted in this page last week, is that the change of Spanish foreign minister, will not derail the current process to arrive at a treaty. Mr. Gonzalez-Barba has confirmed that the Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, in his capacity, within the EU Brexit process, as ‘Sherpa’ has been on the job involving Gibraltar for some time, and so clearly in the picture and in agreement with the process.
The direction is clear. The ambition, expressed by Mr. Picardo and by Spanish Ministers repeatedly, is to create an area of shared prosperity between Gibraltar and the Campo. A prosperity that will be based on the opportunities that our strategic location offers to all on each side of the frontier, whilst, ostensibly, leaving issues of ‘sovereignty’ to one side.
ONE-DIRECTIONAL SHARED PROSPERITY
It will be a shared prosperity that will confirm and embed our economic dependence on Spain. A reliance that is down to the conscious policies of every government since 1985. They have all followed economic and business strategies, in the belief that the EU was here to stay.
There will be no way back from a treaty, but is there any viable alternative way forward?It seems that those governing us, the GSLP, as many others, think not, save with suffering great economic and financial pain.
The belief is that elements of control in certain matters need to be given to the EU, and through the EU’s delegation, to Spain. EU control was there before Brexit, so no big deal, but what is being talked about now publicly, take us beyond that which existed whilst Gibraltar was in the EU, through the UK. Further it gives more to Spain, than that which was previously held by the UK, fir example, Schengen style immigration controls.
A BIG THREAT
If that is so, Spain’s change of tack, in its strategy towards Gibraltar, may prove to be the biggest threat posed on our ability to remain ‘British’, save when it comes to just the flag and to nationality. A danger which magnifies the importance of resolutely defending our institutions and customs, which are, to the core, what make us “British”, but within which we can fight for self-determination.
Remaining “British”, as well as seeking self-determination, will rest heavier on our individual and collective shoulders, not those of the UK, who constantly repeats its constitutional reassurances. The emphasis of our fight for self-determination will shift in any new circumstances created by the terms of any treaty agreed with the EU.