The Chief Minister has already taken up with London the recent comments about Gibraltar made by the UK Ambassador to Morocco, Thomas Reilly.
The Government considers that the role of an Ambassador is to develop positive relations between the country that he or she represents and the host nation. It is not to indirectly discourage trade and economic relations between them based on the possible reaction of third parties.
In a radio interview, and in answer to a question about developing commercial relations between UK, Gibraltar and Morocco, the Ambassador said that it was a sensitive question. “If we talk about Gibraltar and try to forge links between Gibraltar and Morocco, you Moroccans will have problems with the Spaniards.”
When pressed by the interviewer that Spain itself had agreed a tax treaty with Gibraltar and that there was no reason for anyone to be offended, the Ambassador said: “You have not followed the discussions between the United Kingdom and Spain in the course of our Brexit agreement.”
When the interviewer insisted that he had followed the discussions, which led to a “kind of recognition” for Gibraltar, the Ambassador replied that: “The Spanish claim against the territory of Gibraltar has not been dropped.”
The interviewer made his point a third time, to which the Ambassador replied:
“I am very happy to work much closer with Gibraltar. I had a conversation with MASEN (Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy) and ONE (Office National de l’Electricite) on the issue of electricity exports to Gibraltar, for example. The last joint exercise between British and Moroccan soldiers finished two weeks ago. It took place next to Marrakech and it was the Gibraltarians who were there. So there is really a rapprochement already in place between Morocco and Gibraltar in all aspects of the fight against drug trafficking, illegal immigration and smuggling between the European continent and the African continent. I believe that there is a role that Gibraltar can play. Absolutely. Yes, I agree with that. It’s something to explore. But I didn’t really want to touch this issue, since I personally didn’t want to offend or cause a bilateral problem between Morocco and Spain, since for me diplomacy is also about looking, it’s not about me first and you people behind, it’s about looking at everything that’s going on around you and it’s very important not to upset relations that are so important like the ones Morocco has with Spain.”
Although the Ambassador then went on to say the right thing, the substance and tone of some of his comments as well as the nature of his approach are unacceptable to the Government.
The Government at the same time deeply regrets that the Opposition have chosen to make political capital over this issue, and the wider question of post-Brexit trade relations. This is all the more so given their own admission they are not in full possession of the facts. Given their newly proclaimed desire for consensus politics and cooperation, it would have been sensible for them simply to have asked the Government for information instead of sowing the seeds of doubt in public and risk putting their foot in it. The position of Gibraltar in future trade agreements is protected.
The plain fact is that the Gibraltar has for years worked quietly behind the scenes in a number of different countries in order to promote our position. The Opposition should understand that there are occasions where more is achieved by this silent diplomacy than through press releases and photo-opportunities.