Fabian Picardo and UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss at a meeting in London to discuss the negotiations. / sur

No secret meetings, just business as usual, says Gibraltar government

A photo taken surreptitiously on a train to Cordoba led to speculation that clandestine meetings are being held between the Spanish and Gibraltarian governments

DEBBIE BARTLETT Gibraltar

Although governments in some parts of the world appear to have taken the summer off, for others such as Gibraltar it is business as usual. That was the message behind a press release issued by the Gibraltar government on Sunday, after the chief minister and other officials were surreptitiously photographed by a passenger who had seen and recognised them on a train to Cordoba in Spain.

The railway passenger passed the photo to a Spanish website, and it led to speculation that the Gibraltar and Spanish authorities were having 'secret' meetings that nobody else knew about. Nothing could be further from the truth, according to chief minister Fabian Picardo, who posted a press release from the government on his Twitter page, explaining that this was a continuation of the work towards negotiating Gibraltar's future relationship with the European Union.

The statement began by saying: "The government can confirm reports that the chief minister and the deputy chief minister attended meetings in Cordoba in Spain yesterday. This is exactly in keeping with the public statements made by the government already indicating that such talks would be ongoing... there is therefore nothing remotely secret or undisclosed about such meetings having taken place and continuing to take place".

It went on to quote the chief minister: "We have stated repeatedly that we are constantly meeting with colleagues from the UK, the EU and Spain as we continue to try to finalise negotiations for a safe and secure treaty between the UK and the EU which settles our future relationship with the EU and which has no implications for sovereignty. I am very proud to be leading the Gibraltar negotiations, alongside Joseph Garcia. The work is constant and unrelenting and occurs daily by telephone, email, WhatsApp, video conferences and in person meetings. It has not abated through the summer months as we try to finalise matters as soon as possible. Work on the proposed treaty therefore continues, with more formal rounds to be announced shortly starting in September, and as soon as we are able to announce areas of progress or agreement, we will do so. It has continued today, Saturday, and will continue tomorrow, Sunday. Yesterday we met in Cordoba with officials to review progress and the work that remains to be done. We were surreptitiously photographed by a fellow passenger on the train, who was ironically reading a book about the battle of Trafalgar and was clearly not a friend of Gibraltar, who has passed a copy of the photograph to a Spanish website," he said.