Government has today released a statement noting that the European Council (ECOFIN) has today authorised the opening of negotiations for a treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union to govern the future relationship between Gibraltar and the EU.

This follows approval by ambassadors of the 27 EU Member States on Friday.

The statement adds, 'Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar remains firmly committed to a final treaty which is based on the political framework provided for in the New Year’s Eve Agreement and will continue to work constructively towards that objective. In the event that this were not possible, preparations are also, concurrently, in hand to mitigate some of the effects of a no negotiated outcome.'

The formal start of the negotiations means that the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister and different parts of the Government will now be heavily involved in this process in the coming weeks and months ahead.

'The priority of the Government remains to secure a final agreement which is safe, secure and beneficial for Gibraltar. The intensity of the negotiations, and the preparations for and around them, will mean that it may take more time for any other meeting requests to materialise or any queries responded to, in particular where these involve the responsibilities of the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister. The Government would like to apologise to the public in advance for this. The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of Together Gibraltar have already been notified that the work on the negotiations will understandably impact on meetings of Parliament and that the Government will endeavour to keep them briefed on how the negotiations are progressing.'

The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said:

Undoubtedly, the key issue in this negotiation will be the inviolate preservation of our sovereignty, jurisdiction and control in every respect. We will work hand in glove with the United Kingdom on all matters relating to this negotiation and look forward to seeing the huge amount of preparatory work we have done together these past ten months now come to fruition. This was already one of the key issues I discussed with the new Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Liz Truss, on Sunday and I know that both our teams work brilliantly together in defence of the wishes and interests of British Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Government’s core team alongside me will be the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, the Attorney General Michael Llamas and the Financial Secretary Albert Mena on economic matters. All members of the Cabinet will be consulted on the areas of their concern and all members of the Cabinet will be kept fully briefed on the whole negotiation throughout, as we did with the negotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement. We will need to draw on the expertise of different Government ministers and departments and the private sector as the negotiations move forward. We will be meeting much more frequently now with interested groups in order to consult on any relevant issues which may arise. We will also consult with Opposition colleagues as we try to ensure that we make this as non-partisan as possible going forward. We must not pretend that this will be an easy negotiation. It will, of course be both hard and tricky. But the Government is nonetheless confident that, with goodwill and cooperation on all sides, a treaty can be concluded to protect the interests of Gibraltar, through our relationship with the European Union, for years and decades to come. I am optimistic and will continue to work to deliver a safe, secure and beneficial treaty for the benefit of Gibraltar, our people and the people of the area around us also.