EU talks are near the end and looking positive, Picardo says

When asked if they could be derailed by tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol, the chief minister said these talks are completely separate

DEBBIE BARTLETT GIBRALTAR.

Negotiations regarding Gibraltar's future relationship with the EU are nearing the end and are still looking positive, according to chief minister Fabian Picardo, who also stressed that these talks are completely separate from tensions between UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol and should not be affected by them.

Speaking from London in an interview with GBC News, Picardo said the current talks had originally been scheduled as the final round of negotiations, but they may go on a little longer. He said all those involved are optimistic and are taking a positive approach.

"We are within touching distance of finalising the principles of agreement. We have been buffeted by winds outside the room but are steering the ship towards agreement," he commented, pointing out that there have been other political tensions between the UK and the EU during the 18 months or so that the negotiations have taken place and the position of Spain, Gibraltar, the UK and the EU Commission has been that they should not be allowed to influence the talks.

"It is important to continue because of the long-term issues which are so important to Gibraltar and the region around us," he said.

When asked if there was a chance that an agreement could fall at the last hurdle, he replied that these are not yet the final round of talks, as the parties involved are currently fashioning what the Treaty between the UK and EU would look like in legal international text, but it would be wrong for them to be derailed by something external.

However, "in international politics nothing is certain. We have to work very hard and be cold and mature in the approach we take to deliver what the people of Gibraltar want us to deliver," he said.

With regard to the meeting he and deputy chief minister Dr Joseph Garcia held with the UK foreign secretary Liz Truss and Europe minister James Cleverly on Wednesday, he said they held detailed conversations on the issues in scope at the moment including the problems of UK nationals who hold blue civil registration cards and cannot cross the border into Spain, and that both ministers were already fully aware. "We seek to do whatever we can, not only for them but also for hauliers and all the other problems that Brexit has caused," he said.