The bilateral UK-Spain tax treaty over Gibraltar has been published in a way that shows that the Chief Minister is making consultation with the Opposition a farce and is deliberately preventing proper scrutiny of this important Treaty with Spain.
On 30 January 2019 the Chief Minister promised to share a copy of the draft agreement with members of the Brexit Select Committee. He said: “although the text is not stable and is subject to change I am very happy to offer the Hon. Members who are members of the Brexit Select Committee the opportunity to see the current draft of that at an informal session that the Deputy Chief Minister and I will ensure is as soon as we are able to fix their availability.”
That never happened.
Instead by leaks to the media everyone found out that an agreement had actually been reached over the weekend and the Treaty was formally signed on Monday. The Government then issued a press release on Monday boasting about the virtues of the agreement but without allowing people to actually read it. This was a clear attempt to present the Treaty in a vacuum when it was impossible to independently verify whether this is a good or bad deal for Gibraltar.
The GSLP Government must have known that we were entering a crucial period as they had convened a meeting of the Brexit Select Committee last week for this Tuesday 5 March before news leaked about the conclusion of the agreement and the subsequent signing of the Treaty.
In total breach of the Chief Minister’s commitment a treaty was entered into without showing the Brexit Select Committee any version to allow proper scrutiny. This was raised by Trevor Hammond MP at the Select Committee briefing on 5 March. Again the Government refused to provide members of the Opposition a copy of the signed Treaty saying it would be laid in Parliament on Thursday 14 March.
Less than 24 hrs later the Government not only published the agreement but also published a so-called “explainer” and a video where they give further spin as to how the agreement should be understood.
It is inconceivable that the GSLP Government had not prepared or was preparing such a document and video when Parliament was told on Tuesday that the agreement would not be published till the following Thursday 14 March. Indeed the “explainer” is dated 5 March – the same day as the Select Committee briefing.
Why did the Government renege on its commitment to provide members of the Brexit Select Committee a copy before the Treaty was signed? Why did the Government then still refuse to give the Committee a copy on 5 March? Why did the Government tell the Committee it would not publish the Treaty till Thursday 14 March and then publish it the following day? All this looks like the Chief Minister and Government behaving in a way that deliberately side-lines the Gibraltar Parliament. Why are Government scared about proper debate on this issue?
Trevor Hammond said: “It is clear that there has been a systematic attempt by the Government to prevent any possible independent evaluation of this agreement before it carried out a media barrage on how fantastic a deal they say this was.”
GSD Leader Keith Azopardi said : “This is a Government that wants to have a monopoly on the public presentation of this agreement without allowing any real scrutiny. The GSD will now consider the terms and effects of this Treaty and make its position known after proper evaluation of it.