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Opinion & Analysis

A seminal moment for Gibraltar

The runway incident could have led to a collapse in the relationship between the UK and Gibraltar governments and between key organisations whose top priority on the Rock is the protection of this community.

Instead, it has led to a strengthening of that relationship, albeit after months of difficult, often strained negotiations.

The UK could have forced this legislation onto Gibraltar in the shape of an Order in Council, but that would have sparked a constitutional crisis with unpredictable consequences.

What we have instead is a Gibraltarian version of that law, rubber-stamped by our own elected MPs.

What transpired in the Gibraltar Parliament yesterday was the product of a partnership rooted in maturity and recognition of Gibraltar’s constitutional relationship with the UK.

The legislation acknowledges that the UK has a right to exercise jurisdiction over its service personnel when necessary, but that it must do so with consent and in partnership with local law enforcement.

It sets out in law the core concept that it is the Royal Gibraltar Police that has primacy on law enforcement on the Rock, and that rights enshrined in the Gibraltar Constitution cannot be undermined by legislation stemming from the UK.

The ugly stand-off on the runway arose because some senior military personnel failed to grasp the significance of Gibraltar’s constitutional relationship with the UK.

The legislation approved yesterday and its accompanying protocol will provide a framework to ensure that such situations will not arise again in the future.

In doing so, it also represents a landmark moment for this community.

In Gibraltar’s colonial past, Gibraltarians had to make way for British officers and were forced to use different toilet facilities. It was the military, to quote the Chief Minister yesterday, who “ruled the roost”.

Yesterday, it was a group of Gibraltarian men and women elected by their peers who approved legislation that will regulate members of the British Armed Forces in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar’s Armed Forces Act 2018 is important not just because it acknowledges our deep and enduring relationship with the UK and its military, but also because it is a landmark moment in our development as a self-governing people.

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