There have been few times in history that the political panoramas of the UK and Gibraltar have so much reflected each other.
While in the House of Commons Theresa May hangs on to a deal which has already been voted out, on the Rock, Fabian Picardo defends his Memorandums of Understanding which will go out the window with it.
Both leaders are under the cosh.
May has always got the EU tut-tutting her behaviour as irresponsible or unworkable.
It was this same MEP, Manfred Weber, who as chairman of right wing group EPP, dug his teeth into Fabian Picardo’s mandate. He said that “the problem of Spain is also a European problem” claiming that the most influential political group in the European Union sided with Spain.
The Chief Minister asked for clarification of the statement in a letter, saying there was no “Gibraltar problem” apart from the Spanish desire to deny us a voice.
Keeping oppositions at bay
But if you felt that was a retort, Fabian was much more vocal against GSD leader Keith Azopardi. It almost sounds like a projection of his current frustration but everyday the Opposition is hitting closer to home truths.
Tedious, unrealistic, wrong, unelected (referring to the GSD leader -twice), irrelevant, foolish, confused and distorted were all used in the latest press release. And that was all before Fabian was in fact given a voice.
Fabian then goes on to say Keith Azopardi is unelected five times, reinforces the hard work he has put in to alienate no-one (even if it is for nothing in the end) and state he is “ready to embrace the next phases of this complex constitutional crisis”.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo must remember the lofty times pre-Brexit with a wistful smile. These days his tone is rather darker. “It is disconcerting to see how little Azopardi understands about the negotiations, how little he understands what has been achieved, how little analytical skill he possesses,” he said in what was came across as a personal attack. “This is politics at its cheapest level.”
House of Confusion
May has an even harder job on her hands to silence her opposition. They demolished her deal, almost won a no confidence vote on her government and this week are looking to push the so-called ‘People’s Vote’. If she does not allow a free vote on the subject, considered the dream solution for Gibraltarians and most Britons according to recent polls, she could face even more resignations.
What is certain is that no-deal will lead to a hard border with Ireland and probably an extra-hard border for Gibraltar with Spain.
Commission spokesman says that if there's a no deal Brexit 'you will have a hard border' in Ireland. First time it's been put so explicitly on the record.— Nick Gutteridge (@nick_gutteridge) January 22, 2019
Corbyn has better cards than Azopardi
The main difference between both Leaders of the Opposition is how much they have to play with. While Jeremy Corbyn has a much larger proportion of the Commons, Azopardi is not even in Parliament yet (as Picardo does not fail to remind).
The GSD lost big in the last election, showing no real desire to win and leading to a landslide loss. Labour, meanwhile, experienced one of its biggest voting shifts in recent years, reclaiming historical Tory seats.
Finally, while May’s deal flounders, Corbyn could redraw the red lines to come up with an agreement that involves being in the EU Common Market. While he might have to give way on free movement he could go for an EFTA style deal instead of the bad deal that was voted out last week.
Gibraltar really has very little to play with at this late stage, but Azopardi could have a point in saying we gave too much, too soon for just a promise of frontier fluidity. That would only be until a right-wing government came to office upon in Spain – which seems all the more likely – and those MoUs would, like Cordoba before it, be rescinded.