GIBRALTAR’S leader rued the day three years ago when the British territory left the European Union thanks to ‘pernicious lies dressed up as arguments’ in the ‘ill-thought’ 2016 referendum.
As negotiations continued in nearby Malaga, the Rock’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Gibraltar was now ‘well on the road’ to an EU treaty.
In one of his most outright condemnations of the referendum that brought about Brexit, Picardo blasted ‘a decision that, polls suggest, three years on, the majority of the British people consider was a bad thing for Britain’.
But the Gibraltar Government said once again he was ‘optimistic’ the talks could land Gibraltar ‘a treaty which is safe, secure and beneficial for Gibraltar’
Picardo travelled to Malaga Tuesday for the latest multi-level talks along with Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia and Attorney-General Michael Llamas.
“The United Kingdom and Gibraltar too have put forward proposals for consideration which we are ready to sign up to tomorrow,” his government said.
But Spain and the EU seem to have other ideas, laying out their own draft proposals.
It made Picardo lament the Brexit vote which forced the Rock to the table.
“Our membership of the EU had not been perfect or without problems, but it had been positive in most respects,” he said.
“We therefore had a lot at stake in that ill thought referendum.
“We voted as part of the United Kingdom franchise and the majority, misled by pernicious lies dressed up as arguments, voted to leave.
“So leave we did.”
Giving Spain a say
Although Gibraltar voted by 96% to stay in the EU, it is now facing up to difficult talks which will remove the frontier and give the Rock a special Schengen status.
And despite years of confrontation with Spain, Gibraltar now has to take its neighbour’s views into account in any forthcoming EU treaty.
“It will need to recognise that the interface for us with the rest of the EU is, geographically and physically, via Spain as our neighbouring Member State of the EU,” said Picardo.
“We have to be realistic and understand that politicians can be asked to do many things by the people they serve.
“But the one thing we cannot realistically be asked to do is to change the realities of geography!”
Although no precise details have emerged about the talks, Spain has repeatedly spoken of worker pensions, policing its borders and joint use of the airport.
And while Picardo said that signing a deal ‘gives us an opportunity to put Brexit behind us’, he has often expressed the need for the treaty to be ‘beneficial’ to Gibraltar.
“Failing that, we will have the downsides of Brexit to live with daily as we seek the benefits of leaving the EU which the UK itself has found so elusive for now,” he said.
“But we will make it work, and work well, if we have to.”