Major offensive planned to 'sell' Gibraltar deal
|EXCLUSIVE by JOE GARCIA
A publicity plan is to be launched to 'sell' the expected Gibraltar deal within the next few months. The plan will be actioned in the wake of a deal emerging in the tripartite talks.
Although there is still a need for some fine tuning regarding the tripartite agreement as a whole, it is thought that, having gone this far, none of the participants will want it to fail, so an air of cautious optimism is engulfing the three sides.
Three months ago, the Spanish were putting out feelers about widening the Gibraltar representation in the trilateral forum, to include the Gibraltar opposition as well as representatives from Gibraltar's economic and social world, etc.
There is fear that nothing will have been achieved if the Gibraltar government agrees to a deal, but this is rejected by the rest of society.
Formally widening participation in the process was regarded as a non-starter, as the three sides are represented at a governmental level only.
Besides, it could well be that the Opposition and others would not have wished to got embroiled in official negotiations.
However, when an agreement is formally announced it will not be implemented forthwith. We understand there would be a period of reflection
As part of the period of reflection, consideration is being given to getting all three sides together, in a wider context and informally, so that the issues at stake can be aired and considered by all concerned. But the agreement will not be subject to change - it will be subject to discussion in the hope that, in a friendly atmosphere, any scepticism may begin to disappear.
The aim is to try and extend the level of good relations that appears to have engulfed the tripartite participants to a wider audience - that is the hope.
In recent days, both the Chief Minister and the La Linea council/pensioners representatives have significantly said similar things: That the governments involved in the trilateral talks should be given an extension to find a final, definitive solution early this year.
Mr Caruana said last October that if there was no deal soon, there would be no deal. He now has a specific time scale - a deal within the first 3 months of the year, or so. And if there is no deal within 6 months, we can forget about it.
The UK incumbent in the negotiating process, Dominick Chilcott, will formally abandon his current post roughly in keeping with the time scale now being put forward. It would appear that they would want the deal sorted out before he abandons the process.
With special advances over the airport, some kind of progress over telephones and the frontier, what remains is a real breakthrough over the pensions, which the UK Treasury is blocking.
When the Treasury forked out over 200 million pounds to pay the Spanish pensions claim in the early 1990s, this was presented as the end of the pensions issue. But it has resurfaced, and the UK Treasury is wondering where will it all end.
Barring last-minute changes, the following is emerging:
1) Compromises will be struck and a Gibraltar deal agreed before Easter
2) The agreement will be announced but not implemented forthwith
3) There will be a period of reflection which will include an informal presentation to a wider audience of decision-makers and opinion formers.