Chief minister addresses Brussels think tank on Brexit and Gibraltar
Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, was in Brussels on Wednesday where he addressed a think tank of politicians, EU officials, lawyers, journalists and representatives of European institutions. He spoke of Gibraltar’s changing relationship with, at first, the EEC and then the EU, and described how Gibraltarians began to feel more like “part of the EU family” when the European Commission began to show its support for Gibraltar over the issue of queues at the border with Spain.
The chief minister explained the strength of support there had been in Gibraltar for Britain to remain in the EU during the referendum in June (96 per cent of voters voted Remain), but said that while being passionate Europeans, “we will respect the outcome of the referendum” and pointed out that “our relationship with Britain goes back over 300 years, whilst our relationship with the EU goes back just 40.”
Picardo has stressed on many occasions that although Gibraltar would have liked Britain to remain in the EU and Brexit will pose challenges for the British Overseas Territory, his government would not be prepared to consider any proposals by Spain for joint sovereignty as a way of maintaining access to the single market.
After addressing the think tank and answering questions, Picardo had a series of one-to-one meetings with senior officials and representatives of EU countries, including Werner Langen, an influential German MEP and Guy Verhofstadt MEP, who is the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator and who was the Belgian Prime Minister for three terms.
“Around Brussels I have found a great deal of interest in Gibraltar’s post-Brexit position,” said the chief minister after the meetings. “People seem to be aware of our position, more so perhaps than of Britain’s other Crown Territories and Overseas Territories. The needs of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales also need to be factored in so the Brexit negotiators must approach the problem with an open mind. They must be prepared to consider new solutions and not just be hidebound by old ideas.source surinenglish