I want to thank you and the House for its indulgence in recent months as we have conducted the detailed and intensive negotiations on our future relationship with the European Union.
We have asked colleagues to adjourn the House on a number of occasions without dealing with business.
We have been unable to deal with ordinary business on the ordinary timetable we would wish to be adhering to and to the rhythm that we introduced after our first election nine years ago.
The work of Select Committees has not been able to get underway in earnest either.
This is something we obviously regret on this side of the House.
Members are aware of the reasons for the need for such unusual adjournments.
I am grateful to members on both sides of the House for the latitude they have kindly shown in that respect.
All members and all citizens will have been following the rolling news channels reporting of the state of the current negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union on the future relationship.
Given that we have always been clear in our views in this House – and the overwhelming result of the referendum in 2016 – I think it is equally clear that Gibraltar and its people would consider a no deal outcome for the United Kingdom to be ‘sub optimal’.
For Gibraltar, we are continuing to negotiate.
The issues we are dealing with are as important as they are sensitive.
I want to be clear, Mr Speaker, that we have approached this from the point of view of not ceding on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control.
We will not do so.
It is also important that I should highlight that there is great complexity in the issues that arise – and that the complexity reaches beyond the issues that I have just referred to.
There are issues of great complexity in respect of matters of the future immigration relationship we will enjoy with the EU.
Schengen is not a binary choice when you get into the details and weeds of it.
There are issues of great complexity in respect of matters related to the future economic relationship we will enjoy with the EU.
The Customs Union or ‘a’ Customs Union or a bespoke free trade agreement that suppresses or minimises the need for customs friction is an extraordinarily complex set of issues.
These are the things that relate to the potential for maximum fluidity and that we have to work on.
As are matters relating to the level playing field and non-regression in certain respects.
And there is a balance of benefits and responsibilities that we have to undertake in respect of every step of the negotiations.
The reality, Mr Speaker, is that we are still talking.
We will continue to do so in order to reach an agreement, if an agreement is possible, until the last moment.
We are optimistic that we will be able to reach an agreement.
And we are optimistic that our negotiating partners desire the same outcome.
All of us are, of course, hostages of the history that has brought us to this moment.
As is true in so many areas of international diplomacy, the past has long defined options for the future.
But we are – at least on the Gibraltar side that I speak for – inspired by the possibility that we may be able to deliver a better future.
A future that does not condemn us to a worse relationship with our neighbours.
A future that provides for the protection of mutual rights of enhanced mobility of persons and potentially also of goods.
We continue our exhausting work, Mr Speaker and we refuse to give up.
There is too much at stake.
Because we have a stake and an obligation in respect of the development of this part of the world for our children and the generations to come.
That means that we must be ready to seize the opportunities that this moment brings and to see beyond the past in order to stake a claim to that better future.
And in the event that we were not to reach agreement, we will have done as much as is reasonable and we will be ready for that undesirable eventuality too.
But let us be very clear that the very best contingency measures which we have in place will not equate to no change.
Those contingency measures will also have to have a European dimension, despite our exclusion from those announced today by the EU Commission.
EU contingency measures will have to be bespoke for Gibraltar.
We are discussing those issues also in the course of our negotiations.
Mitigation or no mitigation, there will be many and negative changes the day after we have left the EU with a deal.
There will be many more and more negative changes the after we have left the EU without a deal.
And they will affect us and those who come into work here also.
We will all suffer the consequences of leaving the EU with no deal if we are unable to find an agreement that sets out to mitigate those consequences.
The Deputy Chief Minister has made and issued a number of excellent Technical Notices which address these issues in a very clear and easily understood manner for which I know the House will want to commend him.
I know that he wishes, as I do and no doubt all members do, that all his work in respect of the worst possible outcomes will all be wasted time.
To achieve that, we continue, in lock step with the United Kingdom, our positive engagement in the negotiations which relate to Gibraltar.
We continue to plan for the worst outcome and we continue to negotiate for the best possible outcome.
Remarkably, such is the politics of Brexit at the end of the second decade of the twenty first century…
Additionally, Mr Speaker, in our bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom we have already announced the steps taken to preserve the market access between us and the UK and the arrangements in relation to health, education etc which are so important to us.
On those, we really have demonstrated the strength of the bilateral relationship between us in a way that many naysayers doubted when we initially announced how we saw the post-EU bilateral relationship developing.
Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar is indeed pleased with the manner in which those aspects of the relationship post Brexit with the UK has developed.
The naysayers will be as disappointed as ever… but they have moved on to naysaying pastures new, as ever!
Finally, Mr Speaker, the Deputy Chief Minister and I have been briefing Cabinet colleagues and the Leader of the Opposition and the Honourable lady throughout this process as often as we have been able.
I expect we will be briefing them again tomorrow on latest developments.