Spain's Acting Foreign Minister says free movement across the Gibraltar frontier will automatically end unless Gibraltarians accept joint sovereignty proposal with Spain. Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo was answering a question by Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation at a press conference after he met with Andalusia politicians in Algeciras, including the mayors of Algeciras and La Linea. From Seville Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said no democratic nation would get away closing a frontier.
García Margallo was introduced by the Mayor of Algeciras, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, who said the Gibraltar question was present in the acting minister's mind the twelve months of the year. Landaluce also praised his attention to detail and capacity for hard work and described his as a leader who not only defended Spain’s sovereignty claim but also the Campo’s economic development.
The acting minister presented Spain’s arguments, highlighting what he saw as the benefits of joint sovereignty.
”(Gibraltar) Chief Minister had been right when he spoke of an existential threat. Nothing will be the same after Brexit he said and reiterated how it presented Spain with the best opportunity on the Gibraltar question, in decades.
Garcia Margallo said he was reading his British counterpart, Boris Johnson’s book and still on British literature and in attempt to demonstrate that circumstances had changed from the last time joint sovereignty had been proposed, he quoted Lord Keynes: When the facts change, I change my mind, What do you do sir?. And in that vein, he continued to quote Winston Churchill.
But if the Spanish Foreign Minister had started with impassioned history, his speech became more threatening as he warned of loss of business opportunities on the Rock and troubles ahead, as the frontier by default and as a result of Britain leaving the EU would become an external frontier again.
Praising Gibraltar’s economic model, which he said would be kept in a joint sovereignty scenario, he however then declared himself unhappy with the fiscal arrangements, pointing out Spain had asked the EU to investigate aspects of the Rock’s tax regime.
When asked how a democratic country could reclaim a territory it had ceded over 300 years ago, against the wishes of the people, García Margallo replied that his reputation on democracy is impeccable and that he’s never been accused of being Francoist.
The fact that Gibraltar Chief Minister had declined the invitation to attend was pointed out to him and he was asked whether relations between both were tense.
Garcia Margallo has said he wants to see the Spanish flag flying over the Rock and if today he thought he could sell joint sovereignty to Gibraltar, Gibraltar wasn’t there to listen.
From Seville Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he made it plain clear to his audience that EU treaties will continue to apply to Gibraltar after Article 50 is triggered, until such time as Brexit actually happens.
Addressing the two main trade unions of Andalusia, Picardo has repeated his line that if sovereignty is the price to pay for access to the single market or free movement, then it is a price Gibraltar will never pay.
However Gibraltar is willing to go down the route of dialogue, except in respect of its sovereignty, he pointed out. Finally in response to Garcia Margallo's statement that free movement at the frontier will cease unless Gibraltarians accept joint sovereignty, Picardo argues that today a democratic” state could not get away with closing a frontier, especially if it puts 12,000 people out of jobs.