Friday, 25 Sep 2020

Gibraltar preparing for no deal Brexit – govt solidifies plans amid Frost-Barnier deadlock

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Next week the two negotiators will meet for yet another round of meetings following last month’s talks which Mr Barnier bemoaned as resulting in “no progress” on key issues. Gibraltarians are wasting no time in planning for a hard Brexit and Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia last week chaired a meeting of the Brexit Strategic Group set up by the Government of the Rock.

The Gibraltar Government has stressed that it is still “confident that a good economic association can be agreed that will greatly benefit” the British Overseas Territory.

No deal planning was at the centre of the meeting and reports by the Brexit Executive Group, which includes different groups of specialists, were examined.

A spokesman for the Government said: “The planning work for a no deal that had been carried out in 2018 and 2019 had been very useful and, in some areas, had served as a general rehearsal for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This is the case, for example, of the storage of materials by the Health Authority and the establishment of an oxygen plant in the hospital.

In other cases, departments and agencies had drawn up detailed action plans for a no deal Brexit, which were later adopted to deal with the epidemic.

Mr Garcia said: “The Government continues to plan for all possible scenarios because this is the responsible strategy.

“Clearly, the greater the planning, the more likely it is that problems will be identified and solutions found.

“The issues become more tangible as we move towards December 31 and it is expected that all the work done so far will be very useful if no agreement is reached.”

The Gibraltarian Government maintains several lines of work including commitments made in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU, the Gibraltar Protocol and the accompanying Memoranda of Understanding (MoU).

Politicians in the archipelago are also working with the British government to lay out a roadmap for the future relationship with Brussels in the context of the Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).

As the Brexit transition period deadline of December 31 inches closer, the Gibraltarian Government is also seeking an ambitious relationship with EU member states, especially Spain, with whom they held a first official round of talks on June 9.

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Gibraltar described the talks as “positive and constructive.”

Meanwhile the EU has been warned it will betray itself if it stands by and lets Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko brazenly hang onto power following the country’s election.

The election has been marred by claims of vote-rigging as the president claimed to have scooped up more than 80 percent of the vote.

Writing in Der Tagesspiegel, a Germany daily newspaper, diplomatic correspondent Christoph Von Marschall said: “Many EU citizens are likely to ask a different question: What do we have in common with the country, what is it to us?

“But the debate in Belarus is about something that is part of Europe’s identity: democratic elections.

“The one on Sunday wasn’t democratic. Election observers were not allowed.

“Opposition representatives were not allowed to be present during the count.

“Lukashenko switched off the Internet in order to make it difficult to exchange information and organise protests.”

Mr Von Marschall questioned if Germany and the EU accept such a scenario in Europe.

He said: “Won’t the EU and the federal government let the opposition down if nothing follows now except wringing hands about developments, verbal criticism of Lukashenko and verbal solidarity with the ten million citizens there?”

The White House has expressed dismay over the violent protests which have broken out across cities in Belarus including the capital Minsk as people call for an end to the reign of “Europe’s last dictator”.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg and Maria Ortega.

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