The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is one of the great ministries of State of the British Government. For many years it followed its own course and the Mandarins who rule there still consider themselves a superior species apart from the elected government of the day who are mere politicians regardless of what party they serve.
This is an important fact for Gibraltarians to grasp and understand. In theory no British Government would seek to foist a future on the people of the Rock without their total agreement. That protection is enshrined in Gibraltar’s Constitution. Forget what happened in 2001 and 2002, as history will no doubt show the British Government was duped in to believing Gibraltar would agree.
In contrast the Foreign Office would have handed Gibraltar over to Spain without a batting of an eyelid any time over the past 50 years. It wants to see total harmony exist between London and Madrid and the issue of the Rock is a major annoyance. It is the Foreign Office that blocks any Royal visits of stature to Gibraltar not the government and certainly not the Royal Household.
So when we come to Gibraltar’s territorial waters and responsibility for them in environmental matters being given to Spain we should not be surprised. This would have been a matter for the Foreign Office. It is said Britain first applied for waters off Algeria having got its map references wrong. Whether that is true or not it is quite clear the whole matter was a complete mess and trying to blame the EU is rather disingenuous.
Brussels has a simple rule for Gibraltar. It knows where it is but whilst Britain has jurisdiction, Spain makes a sovereignty claim so the EU steers clear and lets both governments sort it out. So when a bureaucrat in Brussels is assigning waters and looks at the bay and eastern side of the Rock and Spain says they are Madrid’s – unless Britain is monitoring the situation as it should it gets nodded through. It is not the EU system that is at fault but the Foreign office.
Gibraltar’s waters have a three mile limit, it could under international law claim 12 miles but the Foreign Office would never follow that route. Gibraltar’s international rights take second place to what pleases Madrid. When a Spanish navy or Guardia Civil vessel encroaches in to Gibraltar’s waters it is the Foreign Office that should make a loud protest – but does it? Well we know all too well the answer to that one. In the defence of Gibraltar the Foreign Office is speechless.
Of course William Hague and David Miliband, the two most recent Foreign Secretaries, may say this and may say that, but they are transient politicians. The day to day power and actions do not lie with them but with those senior Mandarins who control Britain’s international strings. Just watch one episode of ‘Yes Minister’ and all will be revealed.
In recent years the Civil Service has kicked up a fuss as first Labour and then the Conservative Governments imported political advisors to their ministers. These outsiders are mistrusted by the Mandarins and with good reason. They sit in the ministry’s offices, watch and hear everything but they are there to serve the minister and not the system. Yet Mandarins are wily beasts and still rule the Foreign Office roost.
So Gibraltarians have to be on their guard because whilst the British Government of the day pledges solidarity with the people of the Rock – and means it – at the same time the Foreign Office is following a different agenda and is no friend of Gibraltar’s. So we have to be very clear: what the British Government says is one thing – what the Foreign Office does is another.