A solution to the EU-UK dispute over sausage exports to Northern Ireland could also secure the presence of British bangers in Gibraltar’s supermarkets, the peninsula’s chief minister has told MPs.
Fabian Picardo, speaking to the House of Commons’ European scrutiny committee, said that Brexit had created “administrative burdens” that were reducing the variety of goods that Gibraltar‘s shops can stock.
The chief minister said he was “disappointed to see that some of our supermarkets are not able to offer the range they were able to offer before now”, as he stressed the importance to the “character of Gibraltar” of its supermarkets being able to stock British products.
In December last year, the UK and Spain struck a last-minute deal to avoid a hard border in Gibraltar as the Brexit transition period drew to a close.
Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory known as “The Rock”, is not covered by the Brexit trade deal and talks are currently ongoing between the UK and EU over a permanent post-Brexit treaty on the peninsula’s relationship with the bloc.
Recent months have seen reports of shortages in Gibraltar’s supermarkets, including for some meat products.
And Mr Picardo told MPs on Wednesday how “today, as a result of Brexit, it is not possible to get as much as the product range into Gibraltar as it was before, without administrative burdens that make it difficult for our traders to do so in the way that they used to before”.
“Gibraltarians being able to buy British products in their supermarkets I think is an important part of the character of Gibraltar and the cultural difference that Gibraltar marks with the area around us,” he told the committee.
“I think it enriches not just Gibraltar, it enriches the area around us even for those who are not expats who happen to live in the area.
“If I shop on a Saturday afternoon I sometimes find families that I can see are not Gibraltarian but are Spanish families who are coming to buy some of this HP sauce and some of the Great British bangers that might have been available in the past.
“When I went into politics, I never thought I’d quite think about the Great British banger as much as I’m having to think about it today.”
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However, Mr Picardo said he was “confident” that a new post-Brexit treaty will “resolve current issues”.
He said this could be done in a way that recognises the “singularity of Gibraltar” and “will provide for the availability of those goods in Gibraltar that doesn’t in any way, shape or form threaten the [EU] single market and doesn’t create an issue that might be about human health and the consumption of food”.
The UK and EU are also currently negotiating over post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland, including over the recent “sausage wars” related to the export of chilled meats from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Mr Picardo said that a resolution to issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol “may actually point us in the direction of the resolution that we may adopt in the context of the Gibraltar arrangements”.
He added: “Although the two are completely separate, in the context of this particular issue – the movement of the Great British banger across from the UK into the common customs territory of the EU – those issues will be similar whether the sausage is coming across the frontier from Northern Ireland into Eire, or from Eire or Northern Ireland or Great Britain through the European continent to Gibraltar.”
However, the chief minister suggested finding a resolution would not come “without a lot of pain”.
Gibraltar has been a British territory since 1713, with its citizens voting overwhelmingly, with 99% in favour, to remain under UK sovereignty at a 2002 referendum.
Spain has long maintained its own claim to Gibraltar, which sits off the country’s southern coast, and has previously used the Brexit process to press the issue.
But Mr Picardo said that while he was chief minister “no Gibraltarian would ever negotiate any arrangements that would surrender British sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over Gibraltar”.
“I haven’t got a crystal ball, but I can tell you that the future of Gibraltar – if it’s one thing, it’s three things – it’s British, British, British,” he added.