IN his New Year address to the people of Gibraltar, Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia who is also Liberal Party leader and responsible for the External Action of Gibraltar and for Brexit had an important message for Britain and Spain.
Reinforcing a statement made in Parliament by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in 2019, he said that it is possible that Gibraltar could be asked to pay an unacceptable political price in order to enjoy the benefits of a future trading relationship between the UK and the EU, and for that reason a “no deal” Brexit scenario for the Rock could be better than a “bad deal”.
In other words, the Gibraltar government is worried that the matter of sovereignty could become a major problem at the tripartite talks due to take place in Madrid in the middle of January which include officials from Britain, Gibraltar and Spain.
The fact that the right wing Vox party has become more powerful within Spain and is calling for the return of Gibraltar must weigh heavily on his mind but, assuming that the PSOE/Podemos coalition has succeeded in forming a government, things may look slightly rosier for the Rock.
There is no doubt that Spain has problems still with Catalonia and the fact is clear that the left wing parties whilst not acknowledging the possibility of ‘independence’ are likely to be more sympathetic to the politicians in Barcelona than Vox or the Partido Popular.
This means that whilst it might be politically attractive to divert negative public opinion away from both Catalonia and new taxes, it could be seen as highly hypocritical by other members of the European Union should Spain taking a new and aggressive stance over the matter of Gibraltar.
Understandably, the politicians in Gibraltar are considering a ‘worst case’ scenario and although the government does not think it in Gibraltar’s best interests to be totally and publicly transparent about the nature of the Brexit Withdrawal negotiations, he has made it clear if unacceptable requirements are put on the table then Gibraltar should walk away.
He also warned of the need to be conscious of political mischief-making on the part of others outside of Gibraltar but hopes that the Territory will emerge successful from this latest phase in its historical and political evolution, whatever happens.
Perhaps this is a first indication of a consideration that independence may be the way forward which has worked for Andorra and Monaco.