Plain talk as Chief Minister faces no holds barred interview

Plain talk as Chief Minister faces no holds barred interview

Is the Chief Minister getting involved unnecessarily in UK internal politics?

There are people who think you are getting involved unnecessarily in UK’s internal party politics, for example speaking at the Peoples Vote Rally the other day. What do you think?

There are times in Government when positions have to be taken which are in the best interests of Gibraltar and with very good reason. I have always taken the view that the people of Gibraltar elected me on a manifesto to look after their interests and that is what my Government is doing. 

There will be times when this will coincide with the views of the United Kingdom Government and times when it will not. But on this issue, and in this rally, there was no such issue as I spoke alongside a Minister, a member of the UK Government, Huw Merriman MP. We worked hard to build up the relationship with the United Kingdom Government into what it is today - stronger than it ever has been . The people of Gibraltar will have heard the strong and repeated messages of support that we have received from UK Ministers from the Prime Minister downwards. My decision to speak at the Peoples Vote Rally was taken on the basis that I believe this to be in our best interests. It did not happen because I wish to align with one party or another as it was a totally cross party event. Indeed, Brexit has caused a deep split within the main political parties in the United Kingdom which has seen members of the same parties supporting different Brexit options.

Will the mous roar?

Did not Spain promise that, Brexit under any terms, they would recognise the MOUs on Gibraltar, so we have nothing to worry about?

The MoUs on Gibraltar were agreed on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement. The logical position is that without the Agreement there are no MoUs. However, they do provide the basis for positive and solid cooperation between Gibraltar and Spain whether there is a Withdrawal Agreement in place or not. It would make sense to carry them forward in some way in the event that there is no Agreement and the UK leaves in October without a deal.

GSD protecting the interests of the rich who live in Spain, says Picardo

What about the GSD saying that they would do away with the Tax Treaty with Spain – is this possible?

The Treaty cannot be terminated at the whim of any individual. It can be terminated for cause – in other words if Spain does not honour its commitments. The GSD position does not make any sense. Different Governments of Gibraltar, including the GSD in their time, have been trying to get Spain to agree to cooperate on tax matters directly with the competent authorities in Gibraltar. We have achieved this. The Treaty finally provides legal certainty for business and for individuals.

The GSD are simply protecting the interests of the rich who happen to live in Spain. It is clear that the bulk of ordinary people who live in Gibraltar have absolutely nothing to worry about. I was elected to defend the interests of those people and not the interests of the rich or of Spanish citizens.

Public complaining about poor service in different Government departments

Increasing number of people are complaining about what they describe as poor service to the public in different Government departments. Do you know what is going on?

Improving the service that the public sector offers the public is a key factor in delivering efficiency. That is what we have to achieve. The public is now, rightly, more demanding than ever. Electronic systems are available to deliver a better service and we are in the process of trying to implement those systems that will deliver a huge improvement going forward. We employ some brilliant public servants. Our Civil Service includes some excellent professionals. But as ever, and as in every sector, there are some who let the side down. We should not fall into the trap of judging the sector by its least effective members, but we are right to demand the highest standards from everyone who is funded by the taxpayer - all our politicians, Ministers and MPs, included.

What makes you think Spain will remove Gibraltar from their black list?

In a Spanish radio programme this week, in which Spain’s secretary of state for EU affairs was interviewed, words to the effect that there is a lot of money in Gibraltar were uttered, although some of the money was claimed to be black. What makes you think they are going to remove Gibraltar from their black list?

We have achieved, for the first time in our history, a commitment from Spain to remove us from their blacklist in the two years after the coming into effect of the Tax Treaty. If we revoke the Treaty, as the GSD is saying, Spain will not remove us from its blacklist because we have revoked the commitments. If Spain do not remove us from the blacklist after the stipulated period, then we will revoke the Tax Treaty and blame Spain. We retain the lever of revocation because I do not trust Spain to do any of what it promises and we have to have consequences at our disposal should they fail to do what they say, as has happened in the past. I would not be foolish enough to spend £84m on a new airport based simply on Spain’s word, as the GSD did in Cordoba.

While playing high politics, the EU declares Gibraltar a colony...

While we are playing high politics, Gibraltar ends up being declared a ‘colony’ by the EU. Are we missing the point?

The declaration of Gibraltar as a colony is entirely irrelevant. It will change nothing. Spain needs to realise that such pejorative characterisations of our modern relationship with the UK serve only to remind the Gibraltarians of why we never want to be Spanish.

Who does one believe when it comes to trusting spanish politicians?

And the anti-Gibraltar Spanish policy at the EU and elsewhere is being promoted by the PSOE, whom we consider as being friendly, so where do we draw the line and who does one believe?

My key indicator is simple: never trust a Spanish politician, whatever political party they may be from. They all need to prove their good faith to the people of Gibraltar. We have suffered enough at the hands of allegedly ‘friendly’ Spanish politicians to be entitled to regard with cynicism any approach.

The impossible can be possible in politics: Can the GSLP/Liberals lose the next election?

The impossible can be possible in politics, such as when the IWBP linked up with their arch adversaries the Isola group, and they ousted the AACR from power. In a similar situation today, all you need is to lose two seats and you could end up in the doldrums. So, how secure are you in thinking that you will win the next election?

I take nothing for granted in a General Election in Gibraltar. I will fight to earn every vote every day and especially during the General Election Campaign. We took 68% of the vote at the last election and we have humbly fulfilled the mandate of the people. We will go back to them to ask them to judge us on our record at the time that Parliament is dissolved. We have projects to finish and to start. We pride ourselves in doing what we say in our manifesto or explaining why we cannot or what has delayed us. We are ambitious for our future and our people’s growth as a nation. We work as a real team, with all Ministers taking responsibility for their particular portfolio. And we are ready to serve the people again if they so decide. When all is said and done, I think people will see we have done a good job, especially on the Brexit front - although Brexit happened after the 2015 election, with David Cameron announcing the referendum just three months after!