When the fishing dispute started with the Spanish fishermen, be they from Algeciras or La Línea, I suggested that before long the issue would be the ownership of those waters. After all if Spain claims Gibraltar only has the waters of the harbour then logically the fishing fleets from across the border, in Madrid’s view, would be free to go where they wish.
Today I am going to go a stage further and ask whether Gibraltar’s waters are indeed Gibraltar’s or Britain’s?
I have seen the term used of British Admiralty waters and also that whilst Gibraltar has a three mile limit, where that is applicable, Britain could under international law impose a 12 mile limit. Needless to say the British Government, or more likely the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has not followed this up nor is it likely to do so.
Now when the mayor of Algeciras, José Ignacio Landaluce, came a knocking at No 6 he was wrong footed and I suspect shocked to find that the chief minister did not have control over the Royal Gibraltar Police. That honour goes to the Governor who holds office not because Gibraltarians voted him in but because the F&CO appointed him. In other words he is Whitehall’s man.
So we have the scenario where the waters are British not Gibraltarian, Gibraltar through its parliament has passed environmental laws governing those waters but the body responsible for policing it is the RGP which in effect is bossed from London.
Now I raise this issue because there are suggestions in the Spanish media that London will decide if the Spanish fishermen can operate in our waters and not the Gibraltar Government. Given the last thing London wants is confrontation with Madrid then it is a foregone conclusion that the fishing fleets will be given the green light: so presumably the Gibraltar Government and indeed all Gibraltarians (ok 98.48 per cent of them) will see red.
It could be that the Spanish press reports are mischief making but even so they raise an important issue: who governs in Gibraltar – the Gibraltar Government and Parliament or London? Are Gibraltar’s waters Gibraltarian or British? We know the answer from Madrid is the waters are Spanish but at least Gibraltarians thought in that battle they had the British Government onside but perhaps they don’t after all.
If the Gibraltar Government has taken the stand that the environment law passed by the then House of Assembly should be upheld surely that is what must be done? If the British Government intervenes and forces No 6 to bow to the Spanish Armada then it shames the Rock and weakens the very foundations on which our democracy is based.
The question is who governs Gibraltar: No.6 or the guy across the road, Gibraltarians or the sweet F&CO?