Over the years I have spoken to many local politicians and all have been of the opinion that if Gibraltar went to court to challenge the validity in this modern age of the Treaty of Utrecht the government would win and it would be placed in the judicial waste bin.
I include in that number Daniel Feetham who was then leader of the Labour Party. I would not hold anybody to their views from a past life but as he will soon no doubt be the leader of the GSD his stance is important. However I have read or heard nothing to suggest he doesn’t still hold that view.
Given that the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, the deputy leader of the GSD, Daniel Feetham, and the leader of the PDP, Keith Azopardi, are all lawyers their collective agreement on this issue is important. It is not only important to win the legal battle but also the fight for public opinion. Hence Gibraltar needs to be united and 100 per cent behind this cause.
I accept there are lawyers and there are lawyers hence Messers Picardo, Feetham and Azopardi may well not be the ones to stand up in court and argue the case on an ancient treaty and constitutional matters. None-the-less Gibraltar and the world are not short of lawyers and perhaps Michael Llamas QC might be such a legal eagle.
In a recent Government statement on the fishing dispute Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said “I am the fifth Chief Minister of Gibraltar to challenge Spain to litigation on the issue of the territorial waters around Gibraltar. Instead of accepting our successive challenges to resolve matters in an International Court, some elements in Spain continue to risk the lives of those at sea by seeking to advance its position in the waters around Gibraltar.”
Well my question as a lay man is if five Chief Ministers were confident enough to take the matter before a court why haven’t we called Spain’s bluff before now and done just that?
Whilst the waters and air space issues are the ones the court in such circumstances would be required to rule on I believe it should be the whole issue of the Treaty of Utrecht that should be up for judicial grabs.
Again as a lay man I can see no danger for Gibraltar. If we lose the case then the Treaty of Utrecht is upheld and as long as Gibraltar remains British, by the will of the Gibraltarian people, then the status quo stays.
However if the court rules that Gibraltar is entitled under international law to its own air space and waters, as provided for in the 1958 Geneva Convention to which Spain is a signatory, then it’s certainly game, set to us. If the court also rules the Treaty of Utrecht is as dead as the Dodo then you can add match over too.
In the 1967 referendum 99.19 per cent of Gibraltarians voted to reject any move to transfer them to Spanish sovereignty. In 2002 almost the same number, 98.48 per cent, rejected the attempts by Tony Blair and Jack Straw to bounce Gibraltar in to a joint sovereignty deal with Spain. The people of Gibraltar have been staunch in their rejection of Spain and surely it is now time to take the matter to court to cement in judicial stone the death of the Treaty of Utrecht and the right of the people of the Rock to self determine their own futures.
Of course Spain would oppose taking the case to court: but so too would any land grabber threatened with legal action. Britain would also oppose it as there is nothing the Foreign Office and the establishment likes less than change. Certainly it would be happy for joint sovereignty to be imposed but as an extension of the Treaty. However take away the Treaty of Utrecht and you remove the plank on which London – Madrid relations have been founded on for over 300 years. The brolly brigade would be in uncharted territory whilst Gibraltar would have a legally enforced map of its seas and air space. Do it I say!