The ending of the reciprocal healthcare arrangements by Spain brings into sharp focus the handling of the BREXIT negotiations since 2016 by the Gibraltar Government.
For years the GSD have been saying that they mishandled the negotiations by giving away rights to frontier workers with no equivalent rights in return for people resident here. People will be concerned that on top of everything else they will now have to worry about taking out health insurance for Spain because they are not covered for emergency healthcare.
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said:
“As we have stated repeatedly the GSD has no issue with frontier workers having continuing rights as part of permanent arrangements. The issue is that we consider that the opportunity should have been taken to secure rights of freedom of movement across the frontier or access to services like healthcare when these were given to frontier workers. In fact, under the Withdrawal Agreement the Government agreed to provide these rights to frontier workers but did not secure permanent rights for all our people. It is now coming home to roost. They have not secured better arrangements since. And that is why it is now the case that our population is no longer entitled to emergency healthcare benefits in Spain while the nearly 15,000 frontier workers working in Gibraltar before 31 December 2020 have rights to healthcare in Gibraltar on a permanent basis.
The comparative numbers are relevant. This is not the case of a few thousand frontier workers acquiring rights and being subsumed in a country of 30 million people which might be the case with several Member States of the EU. Given that the pre-2021 number of frontier workers is just under half of our population it is a unique situation which should have been catered for at the same time.
To fail to secure simultaneous rights for frontier workers and our people as a whole was a failure in the negotiations and the effect of the agreements entered into by Mr Picardo’s government.
Worse still if no permanent Treaty is agreed then there is no certainty of reciprocal healthcare arrangements being restored. Conversely the 15,000 frontier workers will have secure and permanent rights to access healthcare here for life.
We repeat that our issue is that our population which is insignificant in national Spanish terms and could not possibly be a burden on the Spanish healthcare system should have secured those rights at the same time as frontier workers. This was yet another failure by Mr Picardo and the failures are mounting up and increasingly becoming obvious.