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“We mustn’t allow Brexit to be used by extremists looking to raise barriers”

Martin Serrano

Exceptional Honorary Member – this is the title awarded to Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, by the Mar del Sur Association at a social event held at the Hotel Montera Barreño a few days ago.

This event also served to emphasise the need, now more than ever, to strengthen every kind of bonds between both sides of the Frontier, with the threat of Brexit on the horizon continuing to raise serious concerns among cross-border workers and people on both sides.

Not to mention the wide commercial interests that flow and complement each other, as the Chief Minister himself said when he took the floor.

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The Montera event was a social event with a strong political element, since all those present were eager to know whether Picardo could divulge any new information that would comfort the attendees.

His attendance was highly praised by both presenter Stephen Cumming and Ana León, Mar del Sur founding partner and president respectively, for his presence at such an intensely and busy time, not only in relation to domestic issues, but also those concerning the negotiations between the Spanish and British governments in these delicate times.

Picardo asserted that, once the details of the British departure from the European Union finalised – something which he openly lamented– things are going to continue exactly the same regarding transit through the Frontier.

“I am working closely with Spain and the United Kingdom to ensure border crossing continues to be smooth and that the outrage of fifty years ago won’t happen again.” He is also certain that, together, they will overcome the challenges that may arise from Brexit.

He insisted that, “We are instruments that citizens rely on to ensure that the crime of 1969 is not repeated. We mustn’t allow Brexit to be used as an excuse by extremists looking to raise barriers. We all have the obligation to lessen tensions and cooperate more, and Mar del Sur has always seen to that.”

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Fewer vetoes and more cooperation. Although he did not explicitly says so, Picardo sent a subtle rebuke to the times that Spain has been granted the ability to veto agreements concerning the Rock.

What will happen with Brexit? One could say, this is the million-dollar question. “Nobody knows what is going to happen, nobody knows how it’s going to pan out. In the referendum, all Gibraltarian parties pushed for us to stay in the EU and 96% of the population voted in favour.

And now we’ll have to find out how to get out of this mess, this nightmare.” Picardo wouldn’t disapprove of a second referendum – far from it – though it should pose different questions. However, this seems to be a distant possibility for fragmented British parliament.

Picardo recalled how Gibraltar opened the doors of the European Community to the Spaniards in 1984, two years before its official adhesion. “I’ll tell you the truth, if you ask politicians to exercise in self-criticism, I believe we need less vetoing and more generosity. Why do we have to have something as cohesive as the power of veto? I don’t understand it.”

After concluding his speech and answering questions from the attendees, the Mar del Sur president presented the Chief minister of Gibraltar with an Exceptional Honorary Member plaque.

Strengthening Relationships

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Ana León recalled that, thirty years ago, she had the opportunity to get to know and respect Gibraltar thanks to her husband and now vice president, Paul Lavin. He had very good friends there, including Picardo, who he had already met when he was already an activist in the socialist party (GSLP), “and who has helped us a lot.”

For his part, Cumming stated that being the Chief Minister of Gibraltar was not an easy task, because adding to local issues, he’s also actively involved in matters concerning the United Kingdom, Spain and the European Union, and is “facing challenges beyond those of a mayor.”

He concluded by expressing how rewarding it was to attend an event of this nature.

Picardo expressed his gratitude for Mar del Sur’s important work. “Their president fights for the goals of the association, which are based on three basic pillars: tolerance, respect and dialogue.

This association was created to promote social, cultural and human relationships with Gibraltar and its initiatives remind us that the two sister cities, Gibraltar and La Línea, are more united than ever.”

Entertainment was provided by the musician Manolo Báez accompanied on vocals by Levi Attias.

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