Constitutional talks continue today:
IS GIBRALTAR BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE?

by JOE GARCIA
The long-delayed second meeting with Britain to seek constitutional reform opens today, with many people wondering why the process is taking so long.

The last constitution was agreed in a week or so at a meeting held in Gibraltar in 1968. Gibraltar was seeking constitutional reform which was quite wide ranging and important, such as establishing a link between Gibraltar and Britain which was the subject of great differences and much debate when the talks started. Yet, it all ended happily, albeit after fears that they would break down.

PARALLELS

Parallels are being drawn with that occasion which, significantly, was headed by a UK minister, Lord Shepherd, who had the authority to reach agreements or to make personal calls to other ministers in Britain, including the Prime Minister.

What we are seeing in the current constitutional meetings is something of a charade, with the proposed new constitution having been agreed locally as long ago as 1999 - and still nothing has happened!

The first talks between the UK and Gibraltar delegations go back almost a year. So, is Gibraltar being taken for a ride?

After the first round ended in London last December, a statement said that they had gone through the proposals clause by clause, there was satisfaction with the progress made and the UK side had generally given a positive and sympathetic response to the proposals tabled by the Gibraltar delegation.

That being the case, why the snail-pace? The talks should have continued in the first quarter of this year, that is, before the end of March. Why did they not? That there was a general election? But that was later, and a meeting should have been organised well before the election was even announced. And given that Labour were returned to power, it is another red-herring to say that more time was required. Required for what, when London has had the proposals for years - they knew what was being requested and they have long known what is their response.

It is quite understandable that there may be some points that the UK side is not entirely happy with, such as tinkering with the role of the Governor.

On the other hand, the Gibraltar side, also quite understandably,want to move away from the relics of colonialism.

Britain is on a poor wicket if it insists that there are certain rules and regulations that must apply to Gibraltar, when she does not apply such concepts to herself.

Gibraltar does not want to break away from Britain - but wants to break away from a colonial relationship.



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