The new spokeswoman for the Cross-Frontier Group, María del Mar Sánchez del Río, has told ReachExtra that there can still be an agreement whereby the flow of goods and workers through the frontier is guaranteed, even in the event of a hard-Brexit, and said that she is committed to an ‘area of shared prosperity’.
María del Mar Sánchez del Río is the new spokeswoman for the Cross-Frontier Group. She works as a technical manager at the Confederación de Empresarios de Cádiz (Cadiz Confederation of Business Owners) office in the Campo de Gibraltar, which has now taken over the vice-presidency of the Cross-Frontier Group the La Línea businessman, Lorenzo Pérez- Periáñez following the appointment of a new Board.
Del Río is from Algeciras and has been active in the business community in Andalucía and the province of Cádiz in particular since 1998, focussing particularly on the Campo de Gibraltar. As an official at the CEC, she has assumed her new role with a clear mission statement in mind:
To reach agreements in relation to the Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) before Brexit comes into effect on the 1st of January 2021.
“Our mission statement is that we will not permit a situation whereby there are no agreements. Currently, the good news is that agreements continue to be met and this gives us grounds for optimism. We recognise that the negotiations at higher levels are much more complex, but we are hopeful despite this. We have knocked on every door to ask for understanding and willingness to put in place a framework that is favourable to us, and we have not been shut down. If there is a hard-Brexit, we will continue to fight, we will speak to whoever necessary”, she assures ReachExtra.
At the top of their list of priorities is to ensure that the flow of workers and goods across the frontier are guaranteed, “and the idea that is being canvassed of an area of shared prosperity is effective. We still have time, and we have options open to us”.
Del Río told us that the lack of information is what concerns her the most: “We are in a very difficult moment in time, in which there is also much confusion because we still do not have all the information that we need in order to build the trust that Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar needs. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are experiencing the same level of confusion as when the Brexit negotiations began.”
It is for this reason that she has highlighted the primary objective of the Cross-Frontier Group which is to get the Governments of Gibraltar, Spain and the Junta de Andalucía sign the Memoranda of Understanding: “For us, it is a fundamental first step and we need this done before the 31st of December … lets do it now, this month, if possible”.
When asked whether the memoranda will become void in the event of a hard-Brexit, she responded by highlighting the uniqueness of the area: “The memoranda do not need to be rescinded, even if there is a hard-Brexit. It would be good if we can achieve the signing of these agreements between the Gibraltar and Spanish side, in relation to our own specific circumstances, because when you look at the numbers we are a footnote and do not carry much weight. We will not accept a situation whereby there is no agreement in relation to the MoUs. We want the EU and the UK to give us a way out, and this way out is the memoranda. They would guarantee an even more secure and stable framework than we currently have now”.
She confessed that the Cross-Frontier Group always thinks positively, and that the area of shared prosperity which has been proposed by the Spanish government would be ideal of the area: “It would be ideal for us. There exists an indisputable interdependence – not only in terms of the economy, but socially also. There are many investments to be made and projects that can be carried out which would benefit both sides; but, of course, without the memoranda it would be difficult to promote this position whilst Brexit negotiations are in play.”
Del Río told us she believes that in the event of a hard-Brexit if the memoranda have not been signed: “the scenario before us will be ugly. There will be no flow of workers or goods and, furthermore, we will see an increase of fees and bureaucracy. For us it would have a really negative impact. We have solutions and what is needed is political will, which is what we are calling for at this moment to guarantee stability, be it through the Schengen Zone or whatever form it takes…”
We have less than two months before the UK, and Gibraltar, officially depart the EU: “What worries me the most is that we are less than two months away from the end of the transitional period and we still do not have enough information to at least instil calm to the citizens in the area. I understand that the negotiations are complicated, and that due to their significance, not all information will be filtered to us, but at least something to reassure workers, companies and society at large would be appropriate.”
And now, on top of the Brexit issues, Covid-19 has only exacerbated the situation: “The pandemic has brought to light all our deficiencies. If we were already dragging behind due to a lack of infrastructure, high unemployment and lack of investment, the virus has been a terrible blow, and a hard-Brexit could be the last straw for the area.”
But, she told us that giving up is not on the cards: “The Cross-Frontier Group are not thinking about a no deal. What we want is to improve upon what we already have. We are not deluded because Brexit, with or without an agreement, will change things, but at least we should have the particularities of this area taken into account.”
So, the Cross-Frontier Group continues pushing forward in this race against the clock. After a meeting held with the Commonwealth of Municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar a few days ago, others are now planned with the Spanish Delegate of the Foreign Ministry in the region, the Government of Gibraltar and with the various political groups in the area.
Spokeswoman for the Cross-Frontier Group on Brexit: María del Mar Sánchez del Río