Fabian Picardo outside the Gibraltar parliament before giving his Budget speech. / sur

Negotiations with EU are tough and tricky, says Picardo, but he is confident that agreement will be reached

Gibraltar's chief minister took the opportunity to update the parliament of progress during his Budget speech

DEBBIE BARTLETT Gibraltar

Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo gave his Budget speech on Tuesday and took the opportunity to update parliament on the negotiations regarding Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU. He said technical discussions are ongoing and there has been huge progress in the parties involved understanding each other’s positions.

He explained that the process is taking longer than anyone wished or expected, but it is a negotiation which they have to get right. “This really is a process where the adage of ‘more haste and less speed’ is going to be what gets us to the right conclusion,” he said.

At the moment the talks are processing through a deeply technical stage, looking at some of the detail of the parts of the Schengen aquis and the relevant parts of the aquis on movement of goods.

No nasty surprises

“We have to ensure that these have been fully and properly analysed between the parties in order to ensure that, if we do reach agreement, or when we do reach agreement, we find no nasty surprises and we have addressed all of those issues in the course of the negotiation,” he insisted.

Stressing that Gibraltar embarked upon this process not from choice but because of the result of the Brexit referendum, he said he is confident that agreement will be reached, which will recast Gibraltar’s relationship with Europe going forward and will also present an opportunity to recast the relationship with Spain and leave behind confrontations of the past.

Despite being “deeply optimistic” that a safe and secure treaty is possible and increasingly probable, Picardo warned that the technical negotiations are very tough and very tricky and they are dealing with difficult areas of policy.

Deep maturity

“They require deep maturity in understanding the European rules as they are between Member States and how they would apply to us in the context of non-membership of the EU or of Schengen, but of adherence through international treaty and the application of public international law,” he said.

He also denied accusations that the Gibraltar government could have reached agreement quicker, or is failing because it has not done so, saying the only way to go faster would be to concede things Gibraltar is not prepared to concede.

“There’s too much at stake for Gibraltar and for those around us to get things wrong,” he said. “People should not blithely think that it would be proper to react in this complex and important negotiation as one does in a brawl. This negotiation is no brawl. It is as much as game of chess as it is of poker where we all have to win and none of us can lose. Not easy. But nothing worth doing in politics ever is easy”.