Different positions on sovereignty by Britain and Gibraltar
|by JOE GARCIA
The positions of Gibraltar and Britain on the question of sovereignty are different, according to the chief minister Peter Caruana.
He made this clear in his New Year message last week.
He said this: "Spain, the UK and Gibraltar maintain their different positions in relation to sovereignty."
I drew attention to this as soon as the New Year message was published. We can now go deeper into it.
THE THREE POSITIONS
What are the three different positions? As far as is known they are as follows:
*SPAIN: They want Gibraltar's sovereignty.
*BRITAIN: They want shared sovereignty.
*GIBRALTAR: We want British sovereignty.
While the Spanish position remains unchanged, that of Britain has shifted. In the past the UK and Gibraltar were at idem on sovereignty, but 2002 saw the joint sovereignty process coming to an end. Foreign secretary Jack Straw spoke in Parliament of an agreement with joint sovereignty as the political base.
The then Europe minister Peter Hain had earlier thought he had a full agreement in his briefcase as he flew back to London from a final meeting. When he got there he was told that Madrid had suddenly changed its mind, and would not accept certain points, such as that the base would remain fully British and that the Gibraltarians would decide through a referendum.
A deal on joint sovereignty, barring the points of discord, is what Mr Straw announced.
THE UK POSITION
The preferred UK position is the joint sovereignty deal in full. Although the 2002 Gibraltar referendum overwhelmingly rejected joint sovereignty, it has always been clear in senior political circles that Britain had not followed suit and rejected it as well. What the Gibraltar referendum did was to stop implementation of it, but Britain has refused to dump it in the nearest dustbin.
For Britain, the deal has been shelved awaiting any change in positions. For the present, there has been no change: And the UK position remains what it was in 2002.
THE SPANISH POSITION
The Aznar PP government were in power at the time. I have it on good authority that a different scenario could have emerged if the PSOE had been in power instead. They might have gone for the whole deal. For starters.
We have seen how the PSOE government has got round to realising that Gibraltar must be brought onboard to establish a preliminary process of improved cross-frontier cooperation. Hence, the birth just over a year ago of the tripartite forum.
The tripartite forum, as Mr Caruana said last week, "is not sovereignty focused" and the nwgotiations that have been taking place under it "are not about sovereignty."
Indeed, Spain is of the view that Gibraltar has no say on sovereignty which they see as a matter for London and Madrid only.
The questions of sovereignty remain in the Brussels Agreement which is neither dead nor buried. As Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has said, such questions will be raised at the right time.
THE GIBRALTAR POSITION
The current Gibraltar view is that such a position may not be arrived at. In any case "the Gibraltar government maintains its position in relation to our right to self-determination, that is, the right to freely decide our own future, which is inalienable and Gibraltar will never give up or compromise," as Mr Caruaba said.