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Government Says Azopardi and McGrail “have sought Direct Rule”

The Government notes that the Leader of the Opposition met the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, on Tuesday to discuss the Inquiries Act 2024. Number Six says that the meeting, no doubt agreed to by His Excellency “out of his innate sense of unimpeachable professional courtesy”, in effect, “sought the establishment” of a new stage in the process of legislation in which the Opposition “was seeking to overturn the will of the democratically elected Parliament.”

A statement continued:

“Mr Azopardi also published a letter he handed the Governor which repeats the arguments he made in Parliament and which were not successful in stopping the Bill being approved by a majority of the Parliament. 

“In Parliament Mr Azopardi had already made arguments suggesting that the Governor and/or his Office were conflicted on the matter of this legislation and should not Assent to the Bill for that reason. 

“Additionally, the Government was made aware last week that lawyers acting for Mr McGrail sought the imposition of Direct Rule on Gibraltar in relation to the Inquiries Bill 2024 by the intervention of Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron. 

“Mr Charles Gomez and Mr Adam Wagner sought that Assent should be withheld from the Bill, even if properly passed by the Parliament, as it was on Monday. 

“The then Minister for Europe, Hon Leo Docherty MP, replied telling them that there was no reason for Assent to be withheld. 

“The seriousness of these developments in the context of Gibraltar’s Constitutional democracy cannot be understated. 

“The Leader of the Opposition and lawyers representing Mr McGrail have, in effect, sought Direct Rule from London, from the Governor here and directly from the Foreign Secretary. 

“This is a scandalous development that reflects the exaggerated way in which the Government’s passing of this legislation, which simply made Gibraltar law identical in every substantive respect to UK law, has been pursued by the Opposition and Mr McGrail’s lawyers. 

“Additionally, the policy being pursued by Mr McGrail is such that his lawyers – all of whom are funded by the Gibraltar taxpayer - have published and influenced the publication of highly prejudicial, anti-Gibraltar articles in UK newspapers, international publications and journals, scandalously even seeking to link the Government to organised crime. 

“This is untrue and highly defamatory as well as being a serious disservice to Gibraltar and its Government and its people, who do not deserve to be vilified in this way as a result of a legal disagreement.”

The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said: “For the Leader of the Opposition to have sought Direct Rule simply because His Majesty’s duly democratically elected Government of Gibraltar is making Gibraltar law identical to UK law and applying it to the Inquiry on foot, is an astonishing demonstration that Keith Azopardi and his GSD colleagues will stop at nothing in trying to overturn the result of the election in pursuit of their raw, naked ambition for power at any cost. This is being seen in the expressions that they are using in the presentation of their views which are designed to dehumanise me and to rouse public opinion against me in a violent fashion. Already there are manifestations of this on social media from obviously linked and coordinated anonymous accounts that stoop to insulting and rabble rousing against me personally. 

“Ian McGrail has clearly also asked his legal team to do anything they can to bring down the reputation of the Government of Gibraltar and me personally, even if it is at the cost of doing massive damage to the reputation of Gibraltar and linking me and the Government to organised crime and the worst of most heinous actions simply because we have made the law of Gibraltar like the law of the United Kingdom on inquiries. This approach is a demonstration that there is no care for Gibraltar or its reputation in the tactics being pursued by Mr Azopardi, in his ambition to become Chief Minister at any cost, and Mr McGrail in his ambition to hide the fact that he lied to me and the then Governor and as a direct result lost our confidence. 

“That is the reality of what is being played out here and why I am being made subject to such vilification in my attempts to protect Gibraltar and its people in everything I do and in everything I have done in the past twelve years I have been Chief Minister and will do in the years I have been elected to remain in this post.”