FABIAN Picardo has insisted Gibraltar can ‘walk away from any bad deal’ signed with Europe.
The Chief Minister added that the territory was ‘ready’ to swerve any agreement that was bad for the territory, which voted by 96% to stay in the EU.
It comes after Johnson’s landslide victory at the UK elections that left the Tories with a sufficient majority to leave the European Union on January 31.
However, Picardo revealed that Gibraltar has the option of not signing the Future Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU.
He told Parliament definitively that the FTA ‘may not include anything of interest to us’ on the benefits side, with ‘many obligations’ on the negative side.
This would be the case even if the FTA included the possibility of financial services privileges for Gibraltar companies to passport into the EU.
“We will need to be involved from the beginning but ready to walk away in the end if the balance of rights and obligations is bad for Gibraltar businesses,” said Picardo.
“We must hold our nerve and be ready to walk away from a bad deal for Gibraltar.
“No deal with the EU may be better than a bad deal.”
Picardo referred to those who are ‘foolishly wringing their hands with glee at talk of vetoes’.
It comes after Marco Aguiriano, Spanish Secretary of state for the EU, said that ‘it is very clear’ that Spain would have the final word on Gibraltar in the FTA.
Aguiriano said that despite trying to ‘consolidate the prosperity with the Gibraltar Campo,’ he would not be holding back ‘on the historic reinforcement on the claim to Gibraltar’.
Picardo continued: “I think we all know that EU member states generally have a veto over the international agreements that the EU enters into with third countries.”
He added that they would have to be careful not to be provoked over the following months.
“We will always want to have strong relations with the EU, our closest neighbour. But everyone beyond Gibraltar needs to understand that we are never going to compromise on matters of sovereignty,” he added.
“We are never going to sell our birthright for a commercial advantage.”
He said that the Gibraltar community had to ‘consider carefully what part of any future UK – EU Free Trade Agreement’ they want for Gibraltar.
He added that Johnson had confirmed his ‘continued and entirely fulsome support for Gibraltar’ in a phone call since his victory.
“Although it was not our choice, and we continue to see the challenges it presents, we will leave the EU with the United Kingdom,” said Picardo.
Despite the blow to the territory’s interests, thanks to the work of the Gibraltar Government, the Withdrawal Agreement will now apply to Gibraltar when it leaves the EU on January 31.
“This means that we will enjoy the benefit of the transitional arrangements applying to Gibraltar also,” he told Parliament.
At one point, there were reports that this would not be the case because of Spanish pressure.