4. Gibraltar was first settled by Moors in 1292,
and subsequently fought over between Moorish and Spanish rulers
before being taken by Spain in 1492. The area was intensively
disputed. In 1497 Spain took Melilla, and in 1580 Ceuta, its two
enclaves on the North African coast.
In 1704, Gibraltar was captured by the British in the name of
the Hapsburg claimant to the Spanish throne. All non-English troops
were expelled from the Rock in 1711, and Gibraltar passed under
British sovereignty under Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht of
Treaty which brought to an end the War of Spanish Succession.
The Treaty of Utrecht clearly established British sovereignty
over the area within the 1704 City Wall. It also provides that
Spain will have the first option of ownership of Gibraltar if
"it shall hereafter seem meet to the Crown of Great Britain
to grant, sell, or by any means to alienate therefrom the propriety
of the said town of Gibraltar." The ownership of the land
between the City wall and the present boundary fence (the southern
part of the isthmus) is, however, a matter of dispute between
the United Kingdom and Spain. The British Government regard British
title as "based on continuous possession over a long period."
It has been occupied since 1804, with the present boundary fence
erected in 1908. Spain does not accept British title to this land,
and also denies that the Treaty of Utrecht conveys any right to
territorial waters for Gibraltar.
The 1960s and 1970s
5. Spain has always regarded Gibraltar as "a
stone in its shoe." Military campaigns aimed at re-taking
the Rock and Isthmus may be a thing of the past, but since World
War II (when Gibraltar was a vital asset in launching the allied
invasion of North Africa) Spain has mounted periodic campaigns
of vituperation and harassment against Gibraltar. In 1954 Spain
introduced border restrictions. These were intensified in 1964
after a new constitution gave Gibraltar more internal self-government.
In 1965 the Spanish customs post at La Linea was closed. Onerous
restrictions on overflying were introduced in 1967.
6. The clear wishes of the Gibraltar people were
expressed in a 1967 Referendum when 12138 Gibraltarians voted
for British rule, and 44 for Spanish.
Despite this, in the 1960s, the United Nations General Assembly,
with its decolonisation agenda, passed a number of resolutions
in respect of Gibraltar. One of these resolutions
called for "the administering power to terminate the colonial
situation in Gibraltar no later than 1 October 1969." The
reaction of the British Government was to introduce the Gibraltar
Government Order in Council. This established a House of Assembly
and a Government in Gibraltar, and, in its Preamble, promised
that "Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements
under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty
of another State against their freely and democratically expressed
7. The Spanish reaction to the Constitution Order
was to close the border completely; to cancel the ferry service
from Algeciras, and to cut off telephone links. No progress was
made in the early 1970s in resolving the dispute, but, as the
Franco era closed, there was some softening in Spanish attitudes
(telephone links were restored for Christmas 1975 and for Christmas
1976, after which they were allowed to remain open). There was
also an expectation that a democratic Spanish Government would
prove more reasonable than Franco had been.
The Lisbon Statement
8. After preparatory meetings in 1977 and 1978, a
significant point was reached in April 1980 when Lord Carrington,
the then Foreign Secretary, and Señor Oreja, the then Spanish
Foreign Minister, issued what has since come to be known as the
This stated an aim "to resolve, in a spirit of friendship,
the Gibraltar problem"; "negotiations aimed at overcoming
all the differences" between Spain and the United Kingdom
were to be opened; communications were to be re-established; and
the "need to develop practical co-operation on a mutually
beneficial basis" was recognised. Both countries also re-stated
their positions on sovereignty.
9. The full text of the Statement is as follows:
"The British and Spanish Government, desiring
to strengthen their bilateral relations and thus to contribute
to European and Western solidarity, intend, in accordance with
the relevant United Nations Resolutions, to resolve, in a spirit
of friendship, the Gibraltar problem.
Both Governments have therefore agreed to start negotiations
aimed at overcoming all the differences between them on Gibraltar.
Both Governments have reached agreement on the re-establishment
of direct communications in the region. The Spanish Government
has decided to suspend the application of the measures at present
Both Governments have agreed that future co-operation
should be on the basis of reciprocity and full equality of rights.
They look forward to the further steps which will be taken on
both sides which they believe will open the way to closer understanding
between those directly concerned in this area.
To this end both Governments will be prepared to
consider any proposals which the other may wish to make, recognising
the need to develop practical co-operation on a mutually beneficial
The Spanish Government, in reaffirming its position
on the re-establishment of the territorial integrity of Spain,
restates its intention that, in the outcome of the negotiations,
the interests of the Gibraltarians should be fully safeguarded.
For its part the British Government will fully maintain its commitment
to honour the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the
people of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble to the Gibraltar
Officials on both sides will meet as soon as possible
to prepare the necessary practical steps which will permit the
implementation of the proposals agreed to above. It is envisaged
that these preparations will be completed not later than 1 June."
10. Different interpretations were placed upon the
Lisbon agreement in London, Madrid and Gibraltar. Essentially
the Spanish saw the Lisbon Statement as opening the opportunity
for discussions on sovereignty; the Gibraltarians (at a time when
there was no free movement of labour) were concerned about free
movement of Spaniards into Gibraltar; while the British regarded
the Lisbon Statement as useful in leading to the lifting of restrictions
by Spain, with any wider discussions being a matter for the longer
term. In any event, what the FCO describes as "internal and
external factors on both sides"
(including the Falklands War) led to no real progress being made
under the Lisbon Statement.
The Brussels Process
11. Meanwhile Spain had embarked upon the process
of seeking membership of the European Community (EC), of which
Gibraltar had been a part since British accession to the EC in
1973, and of NATO. This augured well for the removal of restrictions.
In evidence to this Committee's predecessor in 1981, the FCO said
that "the British Government has made no formal link [of
Spanish membership of the EC] with the lifting of restrictions
on Gibraltar, since these should be removed and the border re-opened
long before Spain joins the Community. However, it is inconceivable
that a closed frontier could exist between two parts of the EC."
The border was indeed opened to pedestrians in 1982, and then
fully re-opened in 1985 in advance of Spain's entry into EC membership
on 1 January 1986.
Spain had joined NATO in May 1982.
12. An important development in bilateral discussions
in this period was the signing of the Brussels Agreement of 27
November 1984. The provisions of this Agreement were as follows:
"(1a) The provision of equality and reciprocity
of rights for Spaniards in Gibraltar and Gibraltarians in Spain.
This will be implemented through the mutual concession of the
rights which citizens of European Community countries enjoy, taking
into account the transitional periods and derogations agreed between
Spain and the Community. The necessary legislative proposals to
achieve this will be introduced in Spain and Gibraltar. As concerns
paid employment, and recalling the general principle of Community
preference, this carries the implication that during the transitional
period each side will be favourably disposed to each other's citizens
when granting work permits. (1b) The establishment of the free
movement of persons, vehicles and goods between Gibraltar and
the neighbouring territory. (1c) The establishment of a negotiating
process aimed at overcoming all the differences between Spain
and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar and at promoting co-operation
on a mutually beneficial basis on economic, cultural, touristic,
aviation, military and environmental matters. Both sides accept
that the issues of sovereignty will be discussed in that process.
The British government will fully maintain its commitment to honour
the wishes of the people of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble
of the 1969 constitution. (2) Insofar as the airspace in the region
of Gibraltar is concerned, the Spanish government undertakes to
take the early actions necessary to allow safe and effective air
communications. (3) There will be meetings of working groups,
which will be reviewed periodically in meetings for this purpose
between the Spanish and British Foreign Ministers."
13. Essentially much of the Agreement was a precursor
to the normal relations between parts of the EC so far as matters
like mobility of labour were concerned. Other unexceptional matters,
such as economic and cultural co-operation, reflected the geographical
reality of the interdependence between Gibraltar and its Spanish
hinterland. However, the Agreement also provided for a process
of discussions (which came to be known as the Brussels Process),
and accepted that sovereignty was a matter which could form part
of that discussion process.
14. Not surprisingly, Spanish Governments have sought
to make proposals under the Brussels Process so far as the sovereignty
of Gibraltar is concerned. Proposals were tabled by the then Spanish
Foreign Minister, Señor Moran, in 1985. This coincided
with the opening of the frontier. The details of the proposals
appear not to have been published, but Señor Moran said
in a television interview
that Spain was seeking a treaty with the United Kingdom which
would "re-integrate" Gibraltar with Spain, while preserving
Gibraltarians' way of life. Although there was an immediate response
from the then Prime Minister that the United Kingdom would not
agree to transfer Gibraltar's sovereignty to Spain against the
express wishes of the Gibraltarian people,
the proposals remained formally on the table until they were rejected
by Mr Hurd, the then British Foreign Secretary at a Brussels Process
meeting in March 1993almost eight years later.
15. The present Spanish Government, through its Foreign
Minister, Señor Abel Matutes, tabled new proposals in December
1997. These proposals have not formally been published, though
their "outline... has appeared in the media."
According to those reports,
Señor Matutes set out the traditional Spanish view that,
as a colony, Gibraltar was an anachronism, and that, in any case,
the United Kingdom had no title to the isthmus or to territorial
waters. For Spain, Gibraltar was "an amputation of the integrity
of our territory." Señor Matutes argued that the "consideration
which the British Government has thus far given to "the wishes"
of the people of Gibraltar has been subterfuge or excuse for not
entering into in-depth negotiations"and that, in any
case, the 1967 referendum occurred when political circumstances
in Spain were very different. He therefore proposed:
(i) giving Gibraltar political and administrative
autonomy within Spain;
(ii) offering Gibraltarians Spanish citizenship,
but allowing them to retain dual nationality;
(iii) an indefinite transitional period
of joint sovereignty.
He argued that such a status would represent an improvement
for Gibraltarians in political and economic terms, and he characterised
his proposals as "a fresh attempt, on generous terms, to
create a stimulus to change the course of this process."
16. Señor Matutes did, however, make it plain
that any blockage or rejection of his proposals would have adverse
consequences for Gibraltar. He is quoted as saying that "we
would have to continue to prevent Gibraltar from existing and
prospering at the expense of Spain," and he referred in this
context to "illegal trafficking and unfair competition"
and to a "web of crime possibly protected by the complicity
of local police." He also threatened to block any attempt
"to separate Gibraltar from British cover" which he
regarded as implicit in giving it an international identity separate
from that of the United Kingdom, and he referred particularly
to Spain's objection to separate Gibraltarian international documentation
or separate Gibraltarian authorities established for EU purposes.
He has reiterated these threats, having, for example, told the
Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress of Deputies that Spain
was not willing to accept deadlock in discussions, but that it
would apply extreme pressure on Gibraltar if negotiations did
Further economic measuresincluding those known as "Plan
B"were threatened by Señor Matutes in November
3 Ceuta passed formally to Spain under the Treaty of
Lisbon of 1688. Back
See Appendix 1 to the Report for a full text of this Article. Back
Ev. p. 1, para. 1. Back
See para. 107 below. Back
Resolution 2429 of 1968. Back
Ev. p. 3, para. 24. Back
Ev. p. 3, para. 25. Back
HC 166, Session 1980-81, Ev. p. 3. Back
Ev. p. 3, para. 23. Back
See para. 95 below. Back
Weekend World, 3 February 1985. Back
HC Deb 5 February 1985 c. 744. Back
Ev. p. 4, para. 27. Back
Ev. p. 4, para. 28. Back
We were sent these by the FCO. Back
Ev. p. 39, para. 62. Back
El País, 19 February 1998; Ev. p. 39, para. 63. Back
Ev. p. 39, para. 63; p. 7, para. 60; Q175. Back