Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sovereignty- the Perrenial Thorny Issue

The time has come to write about the issue of sovereignty. this is an issue that has dogged life in Gibraltar since the inception of British rule. It continues to dominate politics, so much so that it distorts politics to the detriment of all of us who live and work here.

Should we not forget the issue altogether and concentrate on policies that benefit Gibraltar and its people? In truth, none of the political debates on the subject of relations with Spain take Gibraltar anywhere. All it is is inter-party propaganda for one or other party to either achieve better results in elections or counteract any advantage another party might try and gain opportunistically.

It also divides where there is no division. There is no division because no one wants any change. All want to remain British. It is Spain not Gibraltar that has the problem. Why react to it? Why do politicians bring the argument to the fore?

Could it be that it distracts from real issues, real problem, real political failures that constantly surround us? Not so long ago it used to be said that the Franco regime used to raise the Gibraltar issue simply to distract the Spanish people from the actual problems faced by them and Spain. Could this be what our political classes are doing? Distracting us from their failures?

Where are we on the sovereignty issue? The fear this blogger has is that we are not at the place where our politicians tell us we are. They tell us that we defeated the joint sovereignty agreement and that it has gone away. Does this conclusion bear scrutiny? The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw's statement to Parliament that he had reached broad agreement with Spain has not been retracted ever. At the time implementation was delayed due to 4 reasons given. The fundamental reason was the refusal by the UK to share control of the military base with Spain.

A part of that agreement was that, after implementation, Spain was to encourage and promote good relations so that over a period of time, thought to be about 25 years, the entrenched views of Gibraltarians might mellow and lead to a full transfer of sovereignty. What may have happened is that, due to the inability to implement the joint sovereignty agreement, it has been put away temporarily only to be dusted and taken out when all hurdles are overcome either by time or further negotiation.

In the meantime the softening up process that was to follow its implementation may have been activated by Spain in the guise of ... yes you have guessed it ... the Tripartite Process. The GSD promotes it. The GSLP are not sure whether to object to it but criticise everything that comes out of it. Gibraltar merrily ignores the potential for advances made by Spain in the Tripartite Process that work only to undermine Gibraltar's strengths.

It is difficult to deny that Gibraltar has made a simple choice (whether one agrees with it or not). The choice is to remain British. That choice having been made there is no room for the Tripartite Process. It can only chip away at our negotiating position and undermine our ability to negotiate in the future in the unlikely event that we would want to do so with Spain. The world around us is changing. Europe is changing even faster. These changes may lead us to such a different place that Spain's claim will evaporate. Let us live with our neighbour Spain within the understanding that exist already today and with the minor inconveniences that remain. Its not that bad!

This would not require a continuation of the Tripartite Process. It makes it redundant. In any event if there is a change in government in Spain to the PP, they will abandon the process themselves. For once let us do what is obviously right and good for Gibraltar.


  1. Plato says:
    I quote you 'The choice is to remain British. That choice having been made there is no room for the Tripartite Process.'

    How true.

  2. I agree that there are perhaps more pressing (domestic) issues that should concern us than the age-old question of sovereignty, but that doesn't mean that we can ignore the question altogether. Not only do we have to face sovereignty-related issues daily (because the sovereignty question impinges on many aspects of even our "domestic" life) but we also have a responsibility to future generations of Gibraltarians to be as proactive as possible in attempting to resolve the issue. Restating "all want to be British" and pretending that that reaffirmation alone will resolve everything gets us nowhere fast and is a complete abdication of those responsibilities to future generations.

    Permit me also to disagree with the assertion that "the choice is to remain British". What choice? Expressed how? The 2002 referendum was a rejection of a particular package (joint sovereignty). It was not a broader referendum on decolonization options. It is also wrong, in my opinion, to assert that there is "no room" for tripartitism in the light of the 2002 referendum. As you correctly state yourself, there can (and perhaps should) be room for a process which is willing to set sovereignty issues to one side in order to progress on practical matters of the Spain/Gibraltar relationship.

  3. Plato says:

    Anonymous, which declonization options do you contemplate? Or if I can refrase, what options realistically exist?


  4. Our sovereignty is British and our identity is Gibraltarian. This applies to all living Gibraltarians. Over 99% of us are justly proud of our identity and have no wish to change the sovereignty freely earned by our ancestors. Both referenda prove these facts.

    Unfortunately our ambitious leaders, since the IWBP, have only paid lip service to British sovereignty because they are well aware of these facts. They have a concealed aim for independence through their quest for self-determination at the United Nations. A forum, which like the Tripartite Talks, Gibraltar should never have attended. Our people have been led to a plight of Party dictatorship, which at the present time has become the Chief Minister's autocracy. Our New Constitution illustrates this point and recent well- publicised judicial events confirm it.

  5. Rock Scorpion if by " ... recent well- publicised judicial events confirm it" you are referring to the removal of Derek Schofield as Chief Justice, I fear that you are wrong. His removal was in accordance with all principles of safeguarding the independence of the judiciary. It was confirmed by the highest judicial authority in the Commonwealth, namely the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

    If you meant some other incident or event please enlighten all of us.

  6. Anonymous" above propagates the very propaganda that has so dominated and distracted politics in Gibraltar for so long. One would hazard a guess that he might well be a politician! If so why does he hide his identity?

    What sovereignty issues have to be faced DAILY that cannot be ignored? Yes, there are occasional scraps that need to be dealt with, but daily? That is an extreme exaggeration. The manner in which they are dealt with is what matters they can be played up or played down. Invariably they are played up to portray the "macho" reaction that politicians view gains them popularity and votes, whilst ignoring the harm that such an attitude risks causing.

    There is a responsibility to future generations but please be bold enough not to use this statement as an excuse but use it to make positive and achievable suggestions on how or what can and should be done to achieve this laudable aim. Surely such an ambition requires that a final solution to the issue should be found? is this possible? If it is not, we are certainly not doing future generations any favours by our politicians playing the politics with Spain that are constantly and historically played to the detriment of other important local matters.

    If the decision of Gibraltar is to stay British, and I believe it clearly is, then let us live with and by that decision. "Anonymous" you doubt that this is the view of the people of Gibraltar, I am astounded! You doubt it on the basis that the last plebiscite was only a rejection of the joint sovereignty proposals. Not only do you misread (possibly disingenuously and for your own political ends) the result of that referendum, but you choose to ignore also the clear and oft expressed views historically and the overwhelming anecdotal evidence that shows that conclusion to be right.

    As Plato himself asks, what decolonisation options do you suggest "Anonymous"? I do not buy into the esoteric and totally theoretical alternatives to independence or integration (discarded by the UK as an option, therefore leaving only the unwanted option of integration with Spain) suggested by some of our politicians. I do not buy that the 2006 Constitution is a decolonising constitution or status for Gibraltar.

    The options are written in stone in my analysis, either we live as we are(not least because that is the full extent that the UK government is going to go to and I would guess that there are already regrets in London on the gains made in the 2006 Constitution, which is rather pleasant, or we talk sovereignty with Spain, which no one wants.

    So over to you "Anonymous" tell us what your alternatives are and how and when these can be achieved in the world of Realpolitik!

    You also resort to misquoting me. A common tactic of Gibraltar politicians. I do not say in this blog that "...there can (and perhaps should) be room for a process which is willing to set sovereignty issues to one side in order to progress on practical matters of the Spain/Gibraltar relationship." I say that such a process inevitably weakens Gibraltar's negotiating position.

  7. Llanito World, your posts merit distinctions.

    Out with all these politicians.

    Have you heard of the new discovery?


    It is composed of Utrectium, Cordobadium and Constitionomium.

    It combines readily with Governmentium and Oppositorium to form a lethal opaque compound called TOTAL-CRAP-TORIUM-17.

  8. Plato says:

    Llanito World, we still not heard from 'anonymous' as to what options are contemplated and indeed with relevance to realistic options for decolonization. My apologies for incorrectly spelling rephrase in my entry. Hey, I like the word 'Realpolitik'. That's what I like. Lets talk about realities not pie in the sky scenarios.

  9. I must be one of the few that cannot see why everyone in Gib is so bigoted and Victorian. You complain about how Spain treats you yet you deny gay people equal rights. At least bring Spanish would help human rights. You are all so hypocritical as you shop and live in Spain and have more in common in Spain than UK.

  10. For one who says others are bigoted, the comment made by you outshines any bigotry that you can accuse others of! You tar all in Gibraltar by the brush of those who govern it and of a minority. Gay rights in Gibraltar are far from Victorian, although admittedly there is some small way to go yet.

    You have also so clearly failed to read this blog, which makes no complaint about how Spain treats Gibraltar. Quite the opposite, it clearly implies that there is a price to pay for remaining British and Gibraltar has always been prepared to pay!

    Human rights in Gibraltar are guaranteed under our constitution, which is more than in many countries. It is open to all to question and put right any failings. This is happening at a fast pace and will continue. If you were to have criticised the slow pace at which it has been happening, perhaps, your argument would have some merit. To criticise so holistically without seeing the advances made is to be bigoted in the extreme.

    Commonality with and access to one country or another (and the accuracy of your statement in this regard can be easily defeated sociologically and genealogically but there is no time to do so now) is no reason to change ones roots or nationality. The shallowness of this argument is obvious. At the simplest level it is disproved by the lack of desire of all and every Englishman living in Spain to become Spanish!

    If your mission is to criticise at least have the decency to make a sensible argument and not, yourself, fall foul of the bigotry that you accuse others of. Your only excuse might be that you are an immature child. If you are not ...

  11. I did not refer to judgments, but since you mention the removal of Judge Scholfield, perhaps you have some doubts as to whether the decision might have gone the other way without direct Gibraltar Government intervention. The decision was 3 to 2 against the judge.
    I wrote about judicial events. Things that have taken place, through intervention by a Government in the tight-grip of Mr. Caruana in relation to the law and the courts. If you would like to examine one obvious example of what I referred to, just look up the entire history of the case won, after long suffering, by the Social Carer wrongfully dismissed, who could not get her job back.

  12. Nor do I in my reply refer to judgements either.

    I have no doubts about the removal of Mr Schofield. It was not 3 to 2. In the Privy Council it was 4 to 3. At the Tribunal it was senior judges 3 in favour of removal. In the end 7 to 3 but it is not a numbers game. The decision was to remove and that is what matters. The intervention of Government was totally in accordance with fair and equitable procedures, so no criticism can be levelled against them for that.

    As to the other case you refer to. If the judicial system failed (and I do not know that it did)then you cannot aim your criticism at the Government. You must aim it at the judicial system where the failure may have lain.

  13. Fred says:

    Llanitoworld, I think that you have been too harsh on our anonymous friend above on the issue of gay rights and identity.

    I am one of those that think that things are moving too slowly - we may as well be Zimbabwe or Uganda. Who does what with whom, and with what, is not my business and should not be anybody elses - unless they are underage, and here we have a crime and the stony silence of the Church. Oops.

    On identity, I think our friend was being deliberatley provocative. i for one am a Yanito and my sociological background and genealogy prove it. My loyalty is to the Crown, with all its faults.

    I would add that we live in a changing world. Old alliances are being questioned and international structures are waning. In the face of a non-AngloSaxon US and the new emerging powers we could do a lot worse than stick by dear old Blighty - and it may well be in our interests to do so, but only if we know who "we" are.

  14. I may have been harsh on our Anonymous friend but he has not pulled his own punches with generalsiations and assumptions. If he/she is gay he/she does no favours to the gay comunity by having such strindenly bitter views. I hope he/she takes a deep breath and reconsider his/her views.

    I would also recommend that he/she reads my new blog on age of consent before retorting. Coincidentally I had done all the research for that blog and was about to write it when I sawe and replied to Anonymous' comment. I hope my new blog goes some way to redress the harshness of my reply!

  15. For clarification purposes, I am the "Anonymous" who posted on this thread on the subject of sovereignty. I have not posted at all on the "Gay Rights" thread. In future, I will post under the name "Calpetano" in order to avoid further confusion. I considered calling myself Peter C, Joe B or Keith A, but didn't want to be labelled a "politician" (see below).

    Firstly, I am not a politican. I am a private citizen with strong political views, some of which may be unpalatable to bloggers here (c'est la vie in an internet democracy). One of those views includes a rejection of the traditional take on sovereignty and the usual "all want to be British" line. That gets us nowhere fast, especially when the UK herself has made it clear time after time that she would be willing to be shot of us as long as her own interests here (i.e. the base, not the Gibraltarians) are safeguarded. My simple point is that we need to be imaginative. Elsewhere on this blog, I have argued for an Andorra-style solution, and would be happy to debate those points again.

    Secondly, I do not generalise and make assumptions. I have opinions, which everybody is free to agree or disagree with, just as I am free to have them and argue for them here. I also research my opinions, and have formed them through a combination of that research and intelligent debate over an extended period of time. "All want to be British" is a generalisation. My arguments are not.

    Thirdly, this is the internet. People are free to remain anonymous. Indeed, everyone here is, or is your name really Mr. L. World? If you wish to run a successful blog, and particularly one which discusses local political matters, I suggest you drop your apparent obsession with wanting to find out who everyone is. Otherwise you might find yourself losing

    Fourthly, I would question why some bloggers appear so intent on dismissing our politicians. I agree that for 2011 changes and fresh faces (and images) are needed across the board in ALL our political parties, but I also respect those men and women, of all political hues, who serve our country in public life. If you are so unhappy with the calibre and performance of our elected representatives, instead of calling for change, MAKE the change and stand for election yourselves.

    Thanks for the opportunity of expressing my views on your blog, and keep up the good work.

  16. Calpetano:

    First , you are indeed free to express all an any view subject to not breaching laws against defamation and other relevant laws.

    Secondly, as you point out, opinions can be expressed by all. The criticism "generalisations and assumptions" is a justified opinion as indeed is "all want to be British", anecdotally this is proven by history.

    Thirdly, anonymity is fine. There is no obsession to finding out who people are. Just a request for commentators to use pseudonyms so that one knows that different people are making distinct comments.

    Fourthly, no one is "intent" on dismissing our politicians; only the electorate can do this. All who serve the community are worthy of respect. That does not mean that they cannot be criticised. Criticism in a community that guarantees freedom of expression is healthy and will lead to better government; or shall we close down the entire world's press?

    Perhaps I will stand for election, who knows? Perhaps my circumstances do not allow for me to stand for election, who knows? Time might tell!

  17. I think that you have misinterpreted me on the criticism point. Perhaps you are a politician too ;) Of course criticism is healthy. But there must be a basis for that criticism. Criticism is less healthy when it is done just for criticism's sake, or to make a story or an opinion appear interesting. I think it is a mistake to tar all politicians with the same brush, and you appear to do that regularly.

    Moving on to other matters, I wonder if there are other views held by other contributors to this blog about options for decolonisation, that can be achieved within the parameters of "realpolitik", so as not to offend those who wish to operate exclusively within the realms of the possible :) I posted my own views under an "Anonymous" name on an older thread, and would be happy to do so again.

  18. Incidentally, whilst I can accept that "all want to be British" has, at times, been "proven" by certain events in Gibraltarian history (although I can come up with several events - historical and not so historical - which hint at a divergence between British and Gibraltarian interests), I am rather more interested in looking forwards not backwards. This isn't 1967 any more, and we may need to learn new slogans for the 21st century rather sooner than some would like.

  19. Calpetano:

    I am not a politician.

    I dn not believe any person making comments have suggested that any criticism leveled in this blog is baseless. On the whole the arguments and basis for criticism are made. Please feel free to indicate where this is not the case or perhaps it is you who has adopted the normal Gibraltar politicians' tactic of throwing stones without reasoned argument. I make it a point of tarring different politicians with different brushes!

    New ideas to resolve the Gibraltar issue and make progress with Spain are always welcome. You ignore two fundamental factors. First, you will need to carry public opinion in Gibraltar. Secondly, you will have to convince Spain. Two nigh impossible missions but, hey, good luck! By the way, your Andorran solution has been more than rejected by Spain! Back to the drawing board?

    By all means let us all look forward but wakey, wakey, you do not have to go back to 1967 to know what in the vast majority the people of Gibraltar think!

    My own view ... in an ideal world is to get Gibraltar to understand that if one can get full self government and self determination the issue of territorial (as opposed to personal) nationality is irrelevant. Then to get Spain to agree to this. Both impossible dreams, so I live in a world of realpolitik and accept that the views of the majority in Gibraltar need to be respected, which I do. I have little or no respect for Spain's intransigence.

    All that said I agree. There will be a rude awakening for Gibraltar this century. I have mad e this point in the past.