The GSLP/Libs have declared that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is not a matter for negotiation or discussion with Spain. This essentially repeats a mantra that has been the central plank of Gibraltar's foreign policy for ever, so far as this blogger can remember. It is a mantra shared by all parties and subscribed to by the overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians, and quite rightly so.
There is a need to to dissect and study what is meant by the phrase "... the sovereignty of Gibraltar ...", quite simply and not least because the concept of sovereignty has been changing dramatically in Europe since the last two world wars. In the main leading to a shared or co-operative concept of sovereignty. Unfortunately, this is too massive a subject to go into in any depth in a short blog.
Certain salient sovereignty related issues specific to Gibraltar are worth highlighting, not least to stimulate debate.
A point of note is the use of the word "of" in the phrase. This imports into the concept of "sovereignty" a foreign element that admits, by necessary implication, the existence of a colonial arrangement between the sovereign power, Great Britain, and ourselves. This blogger agrees that the relationship continues to be a colonial one, despite efforts by the present Government to propagate that the 2006 Constitution is non-colonial. Just read the last paragraph of the schedule to that Constitution to be disavowed of that propaganda.
The essential importance of this observation is that, absent sovereignty being in the hands of the people of Gibraltar, save by reversible inclusion of undertakings by Great Britain in the Constitution, which is English law made by Order in Council, in the end and extreme analysis the decision to negotiate Gibraltar's sovereignty with Spain rests with the colonial power. On this analysis the options (if one accepts the impossibility of integration which has been denied to Gibraltar by the British Government consistently) open to Gibraltar are to continue under the colonial relationship (admittedly modernised) granted under the 2006 Constitution or seek independence.
Unfortunately, independence is not feasible for Gibraltar because, amongst a myriad of other reasons, of its size, dependence on external influences to have a vibrant economy and the manner in which Europe is evolving. The option that remains is to secure against abuse the high degree of devolution that Gibraltar has achieved under the 2006 Constitution.
The biggest danger that Gibraltar faces in maintaining that position for a decent amount of time is not the danger that Britain might negotiate away our sovereignty. This is an extremely remote possibility, both because Britain keeps its word and also (possibly more importantly) because of the defence needs of the western World.
The greatest danger is internal. It is the possibility, or even probability, of bad governance leading to a need for British intervention, which could change the dynamics enabling a British Government to justify a change in sovereignty to Spain. The danger is the democratic deficit enshrined in the 2006 constitution and indeed its predecessor. It does not include sufficient checks and balances, additionally there is no desire on the part of the Gibraltar Government to introduce, for example electoral reforms, to improve democracy. The result is a presidential style of government that is open to abuse at any time. Gibraltar has already experienced that. There is nothing to prevent a repetition.
Improved democracy will protect Gibraltar from a change in sovereignty to Spanish sovereignty. It is difficult to understand why all political parties are so reticent to move towards greater democratisation. It will strengthen Gibraltar's hand. It will ensure that sovereignty in reality and in practice will rest with the people of Gibraltar (as is the case in most independent European states) and not lie with Great Britain, as the colonial power. The Constitution might say different but empowering the people more will dilute, in practice, the colonial attributes of the 2006 Constitution.
Empowering people more is not greatly difficult. It can be achieved by electoral reform that will encourage a more diverse system of government than the two party system that the existing electoral system gives rise to . An appropriate system of proportional representative will deliver this.
Proportional representation will give rise to a more diverse and representative Parliament. It will encourage a greater probability of backbenchers being elected who will be drawn from amongst people who do not stand for election presently by reason of the need to conform to a party regime. It will provide additional checks and balances because not all supporters (in a coalition scenario that proportional representation would encourage) of a government would yearn to be Ministers, leading to a greater separation of powers between executive and legislature. After all, there is little divergence of opinion between all our present politicians beyond personality clashes, rhetoric and the urge and race for power, without sufficient regard for what is best for Gibraltar and its people.