Chief Minister Fabian Picardo issued reassuring statements for the people of Gibraltar on Thursday, following the publication of the draft Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU.
With fears having been expressed by some over the wording of the agreement and the special protocol for Gibraltar, referring to cooperation on various matters between Gibraltar and Spain and increased prices for fuel, alcohol and probably tobacco on the Rock, he and the Gibraltar government stressed that there was nothing to worry about.
In a press release, Picardo said: "This Protocol contains absolutely no concessions on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control. We would not have accepted it if it had. There are no issues of bilateralism that can cause any concern. Gibraltar, for EU purposes, has always been included in the definition of the Member State United Kingdom. This is an important part of our inclusion in the proposed Implementation Period and the definition of the United Kingdom in the Withdrawal Agreement. There are no matters which in any way challenge our fundamental positions on any key issues. I expect to make a ministerial statement explaining the details of the Protocol and the Memoranda of Understanding next week. I am satisfied that the aspects of the proposed Withdrawal Agreement which relate to Gibraltar work for Gibraltar. There are many more documents to be published so that every part of the Protocol and its effect on Gibraltar can be properly analysed and understood."
One of the most important aspects of this proposed Withdrawal Agreement is that the transition period will apply to Gibraltar, something which was in doubt some time ago, before the change of Spanish government. This had been a top priority for the government, because otherwise Gibraltar would have crashed out of the European Union in March 2019.
The chief minister made it clear that if this draft agreement is signed, things will largely remain as they are until the end of 2020. "This period will allow for the negotiation of the future relationship with the European Union which would be expected to apply after the end of the transition," he said.
Although Theresa May initially appeared to have backing for this deal, it has yet to be signed. The Gibraltar authorities, although they would prefer Britain not to be leaving the EU, are in favour of this agreement if the choice is between that or a 'hard Brexit'. They are convinced it is better for Gibraltar than crashing out of the European Union in four months' time without an agreement, a prospect which Picardo says would be "very bad indeed for Gibraltar".