With Spanish voters off to the ballot box on July 23, Spain’s interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska has warned a swing to a right-wing government would see talks over the future of Gibraltar “disappear”, which he said would be a disaster for the local economy.
Latest polls show the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) trailing the right-wing Popular Party (PP), which is widely tipped to form a coalition with the far-right Vox party if successful. The two are expected to pursue a nationalist agenda, taking a hard line over Gibraltar.
Often-fraught talks about the post-Brexit future of the British Overseas Territory continue between officials from Gibraltar, the UK, Spain and the European Union although no deal on a new treaty is yet in sight.
Before her expulsion from Vox last year over savage internal fighting, the then-Vox Secretary General Macarena Olona had declared: “I come to say this loud and clear: Gibraltar is Spanish.
“We must close the gate to eliminate any possibility of access to Gibraltar, whether by land, sea or air because we are facing a real pirate cave with the greatest pirate in front, Mr Picardo [Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo], and those who pay the consequences are the citizens of the Campo de Gibraltar.”
In 2019, the Gibraltar Government filed a criminal complaint against four leaders of Vox for “inciting hatred against the people of Gibraltar”and, in 2016, senior Vox official Nacho Minguez was arrested after unfurling a giant Spanish flag on The Rock, while shouting: “Gibraltar Espanol”.
Speaking on Gibraltar television, Grande-Marlaska warned that “dialogue would disappear” over the complex relationship with The Rock should a right-wing coalition take power in Madrid.
“Dialogue would cease to be the primary political tool,” he said. “Since the start we have used dialogue as the primary political tool, the necessity of reaching agreements, each with their own needs and characteristics, and to find solutions that benefit both sides.”
Grande-Marlaska said the negotiations are continuing over the frontier and the contentious issue of EU border force Frontex policing Gibraltar’s entry points.
“There is hard work ongoing to reach that agreement, led by the foreign ministry and in that respect we’re progressing and we hope an agreement will be reached imminently,” he said.
The snap election in Spain on July 23 was called after a disastrous reversal of fortune for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government in May’s local and regional elections, leading Sanchez to ask for “a clarification from the Spanish people”.