Fabián Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, is together with the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, the leader of an agreement that seemed to have everything against it, even more so since the Government of Boris Johnson rejected, emphatically, the Brussels proposal that Northern Ireland remained in the customs union “because that would break the integrity of the United Kingdom.” The same has not happened with the Rock, which until now had not enjoyed that advantage or belonged to the Schengen area. The decision means saying goodbye to the gate, the symbol that for centuries has presided over relations with Spain, two different realities since the Treaty of Utrecht sanctioned the British colony three centuries ago.
La Roca -as the British know it-, where permanence in the European Union is the aspiration of 96% of its population, comes out of this divorce that had been brewing since 2016 better than it was. A negotiation, yes, tough, have recognized its protagonists, focused on not transgressing red lines for Gibraltar, such as sovereignty or jurisdiction; but crowned with success, with a Picardo attentive to the fine print of the agreement -he is a lawyer-, aware of what his 34,000 neighbors were at stake.
His Majesty’s head of the Government of Gibraltar, always in favor of “seeing the glass half full”, said he was sure that understanding between both parties would prevail. From the beginning, he ruled out a return to the situation of closing the gate, a ghost that nobody wanted to hear about in Gibraltar and that forced to explore «All roads» to avoid obstacles in a crossing that 15 million people and 50,000 trucks cross every year (all consumer goods come from outside). “As a good Liverpool fan, I know that the best goals come in injury time,” said the llanito leader in statements to SER days before the agreement was closed.
“We have fought against the tide of history. The agreement opens a rainbow of opportunities and shared prosperity »
And so it has been. On December 31, on the horn and without breaking plates. In praising González Laya, “who has shown a sensitivity like we have never seen, looking beyond the eternal question of sovereignty”, which in Spain has aroused the occasional critical voice. “We have been fighting the tide of history,” says Picardo, “but with this agreement we hope to see an area of shared prosperity for Gibraltar and the entire region around us become a reality.. The new beginning of something that, we hope, will last for centuries.
A “rainbow of opportunities,” he qualified, which will not be free from friction. The first has not been long in coming after the Foreign Minister stated that Spain will have “the last word” on who enters the British colony (the controls of the port and the airport will be carried out during a transition period of four years under the supervision of the European agency Frontex, of which our country is its closest representative). “Only Gibraltar decides who enters Gibraltar and no Spanish agent will carry out controls of any kind. This is our land », Picardo stirred from Twitter.
Overwhelmed by Covid
The ‘Honorable’ -treatment that establishes the protocol for the Chief Minister- is reinforced by an agreement that had been in the works since the first quarter of 2020. “Hindering people’s mobility cannot become the new normal.” A mobility “that has so much weight in labor and commercial relations and in the well-being of all”, agree from the Commonwealth of Municipalities of Campo de Gibraltar. Its president, Juan Lozano, defines Picardo as “someone with dialogue and common interests. It’s easy to get along with him, we’ve had a few beers together … and it won’t be the last ».
Fabián Picardo (Gibraltar, 1972), the colony’s sixth Chief Minister, is the grandson of a Spanish republican who at the age of 17, at the end of the Civil War, sought refuge in the shadow of the Rock and married a plainsman. After completing his secondary studies in his city, he benefited from the UK university scholarship policy and studied law at Oriel College, Oxford, a time when he discovered how different he was from English, Irish or Scots “Despite feeling as British as them”. Back in the Straits, he went to work at Joshua Hassan’s law firm, initially dedicating himself to human rights issues, to later practice as a commercial lawyer.
Married to Justine Olivero and father of three children, Fabián was attracted to the siren songs of politics from an early age, being one of the founders of the National Party of Gibraltar when he was still a student. It would not be until 2003 when he joined the Gibraltar Socialist Labor Party (GSLP), led by Joe Bossano, who preceded him as Chief Minister between 1988 and 1996. From the beginning he was his dolphin. He praised him for “his working-class roots, even though he had access to a higher education, prospered, and lived in a world very different from his ancestors. She has the same ardor that her grandmother showed by instigating the workers in the fight for their rights. He carries it in his genetic code », said Bossano with pride. In 2011 he dethroned Peter Caruana and now has three terms.
You will not be short of challenges. Having overcome the obstacle of Brexit, it now faces the unstoppable advance of Covid, whose British variant is wreaking havoc on the Rock with an incidence fourteen times higher than that of Andalusia (2,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), which has forced confinement to its population and the Board, to close 8 of the closest towns. The vaccine will not arrive for another week and Picardo is one of those who prefers to sin excessively. “The order is to stay home, let’s not take it lightly.” Firm as a rock.