Additional reporting by Diexter Thomas
CHIEF Minister Fabian Picardo has spoken in the Gibraltar parliament about how the media ‘somehow misinterpreted’ a UK government statement.
It comes after a number of media outlets seemed to suggest that Gibraltar wanted to be part of the Schengen Agreement but Britain was saying no.
Instead, tomorrow a delegation will be in Madrid holding talks with the new left-wing coalition governing Spain over Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU.
The saga all started with an interview given to the Associated Press last Friday which suggested Gibraltar could get a more fluid frontier.
“We talked about Gibraltar becoming part of the Schengen zone before Brexit,” Picardo told AFP.
“If you look at other microstates in Europe, they take the benefit of common travel areas with Schengen, even if they’re not entirely part of the Schengen information system.”
One of these small countries is Liechtenstein, that has borders with a number of EU countries.
“There is the ability to move fluidly between the territories of the EU and these microstates,” Mr Picardo had continued.
“All of these things will be considered in the context of the negotiations going forward.”
In return, the No.10 Downing Street responded with a predictable open-ended statement.
“After we leave, the UK will be negotiating the future relationship with the EU on behalf of the whole UK family, including Gibraltar,” said the UK.
“Working closely together, the UK and Gibraltar Governments have always supported arrangements at the border with Spain which promote fluidity and shared prosperity in the region.
“The UK, including Gibraltar, is not part of the borderless Schengen zone.”
In the first session of Gibraltar’s parliament since the festive break, Fabian Picardo spoke of how the press had got it wrong as he presented the Withdrawal from EU Bill.
“That was somehow interpreted by the BBC as suggesting that we could not have a different arrangement with Schengen,” Picardo told Parliament.
“In fact, I’m very pleased to tell the house that the BBC headline, which at 12.30 today was: ‘UK rules out Gibraltar EU travel deal’ has now changed to ‘UK to decide on Gibraltar EU travel deal’.
“The first line of that report which was also in our view wrong has been changed on reflection having seen that the No.10 statement did not do any of the ruling out that their original headline had suggested.”
The Chief Minister finished off his address by addressing his commitment to the UK and the new family of nations that will replace the EU.
“A week on Friday, on the 31st of January at Midnight we will be lowering the European flag,” said Picardo of final realisation of Brexit.
“One second after midnight we will raise the Commonwealth flag.”
However, as keen Europhiles in a population that voted by 96% to remain in the EU at the 2016 Referendum, he recalled that Gibraltar is the only part of the UK in mainland Europe with different priorities.
“We won’t be celebrating Brexit on this side of the house, but we will be accelerating through Brexit,” he revealed.
“We will open new markets, we will take new opportunities and we will ensure that everything we do is designed to make the people of Gibraltar prosper in the future as much as we have in the past.
“But make no mistake, the United Kingdom is not leaving Europe, the United Kingdom will always be in Europe, because a part of Europe will forever be British: this Rock on which we stand.”
The meetings to be held in Madrid this week will discuss how the MoUs agreed by Gibraltar with the Spanish government will be put into effect.
They will lay the groundwork for how Gibraltar will leave the EU in December 2020, aiming to keep the frontier fluidity so key to the economies of both Gibraltar and the surrounding area.