Chief minister Fabian Picardo updated parliament on the negotiations regarding Gibraltar's future relationship with the EU this afternoon, and sounded his most upbeat so far about progress. He believes at least two more rounds of formal negotiations will be needed, and said the first is likely to be in early June if the parties involved agree on dates.
After explaining the assistance and massive resources assigned by the UK government to these negotiations, and expressing his thanks to experts from the UK and EU as well as Gibraltar's Attorney General Michael Llamas, he went on to say that the negotiations are, in effect, "touching every single aspect of the basic building blocks of the European Union and considering whether and if so how each of those should apply to Gibraltar going forward". The complexity of the negotiation is, he said "frankly unimaginable".
Although Picardo said he could not go into detail of everything that is being discussed - "we cannot negotiate in public" - he did provide some information about the potential tailor-made access to Schengen, which would put an end to the existing land border, and he also confirmed that the government is not going to "spring an agreement on anyone".
He reminded parliament that the government has already said it will not give Gibraltar's consent to the United Kingdom ratifying the treaty without the agreement of the cabinet and parliament after a debate on a substantive motion. "This House will debate the terms and substance of the agreement if the Cabinet approves a deal," he insisted.
With regard to fears about the sovereignty of Gibraltar, he said the future is exclusively British.
"Nothing in the negotiations has called this into question or challenged any of the basic tenents of British sovereignty over Gibraltar. And we are not being asked to do anything which might cross that objective of ours. As former Spanish Secretary of State for Europe, Mario Aguiriano said, Spanish negotiators know that if they raise the issue of the sovereignty of Gibraltar, the UK and Gibraltar will simply leave the negotiating room. We have not closed our files and left the table because no such thing has been raised or asked of us.
"Of course we are looking always to ensure that there is no detail that involves any aspect of jurisdiction or control that will erode sovereignty being brought into play. As I have said in every statement I have made on this matter in this House, nothing will ever cleave Gibraltar from the United Kingdom. Nothing will ever rip us from Britain. No one is even trying, although I recognise that it is sometimes easier for some to try to battle the monsters of the past to avoid fighting the real challenges of the present. We will not fall into that trap. Our people will not fall into that trap," he insisted.
And to conclude, the chief minister said that "we are leaving no stone unturned to negotiate a safe, secure and positive agreement for Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU. We will continue to work night and day, in good faith, to achieve that".