The Govt has completely missed the point of the GSD’s criticism of its handling of Brexit and ultimately been ineffective in its negotiations to protect or make gains for Gibraltar.
The GSD understands that the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) protects frontier workers permanently. That is precisely the issue. This was an objective of the Spanish Govt and the Govt has very quickly gone along with allowing them to bag such benefits without getting something in exchange if the WA was to extend to Gibraltar.
Mr Picardo also makes the point that in his view now was not the time to negotiate permanent benefits
But in adopting that position he has totally misunderstood that it was important now to get concessions on permanent freedom of movement because it is now (if the WA goes through) that Spain will have protected its frontier workers permanently. There is no point trying to negotiate freedom of movement in exchange for rights of frontier workers in the future because it will be too late.
In saying that now was not the time to negotiate permanent arrangements Mr Picardo has also failed to understand that this is precisely what the so-called Irish backstop does – protect N Ireland from a hard border beyond 2020 if necessary. In other words N Ireland has been given the benefit of something enduring which Mr Picardo thinks could not be done now. He is wrong. Why could he not have negotiated a Gibraltar backstop tailor made to our circumstances that protected our freedom of movement beyond 2020?
In so far as the bilateralism of the MOUs these are obviously so and not cured by the Concordat. They are political agreements and as such should be trilateral. The Govt’s arguments that it would not be feasible to make Gibraltar a party to an international treaty have no bearing on the MOUs that are simple political agreements.
In his defence Mr Picardo cites Sir Peter Caruana to support his argument that the Cordoba process was different and so trilateral. This is an unassailable acceptance by Mr Picardo that the Protocol and the MoUs are bilateral between the UK and Spain.
Mr Picardo has completely avoided responding to the criticism levied against his Govt about the twist and spin portrayal of the MOUs by the addition of a “Notes for Interpretation” cover sheet that falsely gives the impression it is part of the MOUs. The fact this was done is a scandalous attempt to misrepresent how people should interpret the MOUs.
It is a fact that there will be Gibraltar Representation in the joint UK-Spain committees but the Govt should not glorify these joint committees as some kind of agenda of reciprocity with Spain. It is no accident that the committees deal with issues of tobacco, petrol, the environment, land reclamation or our waters. This is a reflection of the unjustified Spanish agenda of long standing criticisms of Gibraltar. If there was some neutral and reciprocal agenda of benefit why are there not committees dealing with issues less dominated by the now tired Spanish list of criticisms of money laundering, tax evasion, smuggling and waters?
Jointly these arrangements with the EU and Spain undermine control over Gibraltar, should the UK Parliament agree the Withholding Agreement. They amount to shared control on the subjects dealt with by the Protocol and so the MoUs.
Fabian Picardo and the GSLP/Liberal Government admit this in the Press Release, they call it “reciprocal cooperation”: pure spin and convenient use of language.
Control is shared because, in the absence of agreement with Spain, disputes will go to an EU/UK committee which Gibraltar does not control. Anything decided by this committee will be an international obligation of the UK. If Gibraltar’s Parliament or Government does not implement it, the UK will either be in breach of its international obligation or to avoid that breach, will need to impose it directly.
In so far as Tax is concerned the Govt continues to hold back on publication of the tax agreement it is intending to enter into with Spain. It should publish this now for the sake of clarity and certainty of the finance industry and give the people of Gibraltar a full picture of everything that has been agreed during these negotiations. Why is he holding the tax agreement back?
GSD Leader Keith Azopardi said “Mr Picardo is now clinging on to this bad deal as desperately as Mrs May. This is unsurprising as he is her biggest cheerleader. But in doing so he is losing sight of the emerging options that may give us the opportunity of a choice between this bad deal and remaining in the EU.
As Mrs May returns to Brussels for the European Council on Thursday the Govt needs to stay vigilant that there is no attempt to amend Art 184 of the WA on the pretext of the Irish backstop that in some ways prejudices Gibraltar.”