HOW SHOULD THE UNITED KINGDOM TAKE FORWARD
RELATIONS WITH SPAIN?
108. Having examined the areas in which pressure
is being exerted against Gibraltar, we now turn to consider the
way forward for relations with Spain over Gibraltar. We begin
by emphasising the need for a positive co-operation between two
nations who amicably co-operate over so much else. Spain is a
good friend of the United Kingdom and relations between Spain
and the United Kingdom are set in a much wider context than the
arguments about Gibraltar. Our two countries are partners in the
EU and NATO. Millions of British people holiday in Spain, and
thousands live there. The Prime Minister recently spoke of the
recent "step-change in Britain's bilateral relationship with
Spain" when he reported on the British-Spanish summit held
when Señor Aznar visited Chequers at Mr Blair's invitation
over the weekend of 10 and 11 April 1999. The principal matters
discussed at that summit were economic and employment issues and
It would be a matter for regret if disputes about Gibraltar were
to be allowed to sour discussions on matters as important as these.
However, we would expect Gibraltar to form an important part of
any discussion at senior level between Spain and the United Kingdom,
and that unfriendly Spanish actions against Gibraltar should have
an adverse effect on relations between our two countries.
Lowering the temperature
109. The initial statement made to the House after
the Chequers summit made no mention of Gibraltar,
and nor did the statements to the press made by the two Prime
Ministers at Chequers on 10 April. Responses to direct press questions
on Gibraltar were very delicate: both Prime Ministers said that
they would discuss Gibraltar, but Mr Aznar said that they would
approach the matter "with the greatest discretion"a
description echoed by Mr Blair. Mr Blair suggested that discussions
should "take place on the basis of some understanding of
both points of view." Señor Aznar, somewhat enigmatically
said that "it is always good to respect the law and at the
same time in our case to speak with discretion." Mr Blair
also promised to give "very careful consideration" to
the Spanish Government's paper alleging irregularities in Gibraltar
(referred to in paragraph 45 above).
Mr Caruana told us that the Gibraltar Government had received
no details of the two Prime Ministers' discussions so far as they
related to Gibraltar, and that the Governor had told him that
the FCO itself knew nothing as to the outcome of the discussions.
This suggests discretion of the highest degree. When asked specifically
to make a statement on the summit so far as it related to Gibraltar,
the Prime Minister emphasised the wider context in which British/Spanish
relations were set. He said that Gibraltar had been discussed,
and that he had set out British policy, and that he "expressed
our wish to see improved relations between Britain and Spain lead
to material improvements in relation to Gibraltar".
According to the FCO, "the two Prime Ministers agreed that
they wanted to handle the issue in a way which did not create
110. This measured approach seems to us entirely
sensible. A public row between the two Prime Ministers would have
served no purpose. The moderation and lack of bellicosity shown
by Señor Aznar is most welcome, and contrasts vividly with
some of the exceptionally strong and undiplomatic language used
by Señor Matutes and others in Spainand indeed by
some in Gibraltar and the United Kingdom who wish to respond to
Spanish accusations in kind. We do not doubt that there are strong
feelings on both sides of the border, but nothing is to be gained
by bombast and megaphone diplomacy.
Is co-operation appeasement?
111. Lowering the temperature of the debate is not
synonymous with lack of firmness, though it can be mistaken as
such in Gibraltar where there is a feeling that successive British
Governments have not supported Gibraltar as actively as they might
have done. The former Chief Minister, Sir Robert J Peliza, wrote
of "Britain's insufficient support."
Ms Marjorie Hoare MBE wrote that "Spain, it appears, must
always be appeased."
Other witnesses were more forthrightMr Christopher J Pitaluga
told us that nothing had changed since his father, a former Chief
Secretary, had written in 1966 of the "spineless, calculating
minions of the Foreign Secretary."
Mr Nicholas Cruz wrote of an FCO "hidden agenda" to
remove the "thorn in Anglo-Spanish relations" which
and the Rock Firm War Veterans Group saw an even wider conspiracy
of "Franco's heirs in Spain today, aided and abetted by the
mandarins at the Foreign Office, under the strong influence of
big financial "names" in the City etc."
112. We are also aware that Gibraltar figures much
more highly on the Spanish foreign policy agenda than it does
on the British. This is widely acknowledged in Gibraltar itself,
and is perceived as causing difficulties. For example, Mr Christopher
J Pitaluga told us that "the real difficulty posed by the
Gibraltar problem is that it is of insufficient magnitude to warrant
anything other than drift, muddle, fudge and obfuscation on the
part of British civil servants whose concern lies with wider issues."
Instead of this alleged appeasement, Gibraltarian witnesses called
for tough action. For example, Miss Mary Hirst wrote that "it
is time the British Government put pressure on and took a firm
line against Spain,"
while Mr Nicholas Cruz was one of those who argued that tough
tactics worked best with Spain.
113. The Committee has made it plain that it believes
that the British Government must robustly defend Gibraltar's rights
in the European Union, both through action at the European Commission
and through bilateral diplomacy with other EU Member States. This
has not been done with sufficient vigour in the past. It must
also continue to make clear and high-level representations to
Spain, at ministerial and ambassadorial level, whenever improper
pressure is put on Gibraltar,
making it plain that the British Government is prepared to take
reciprocal action against Spanish interests if Spain takes unreasonable
action against Gibraltar.
114. At the same time, every effort must be made
to develop a co-operative relationship with Spain over Gibraltar,
especially at the local level and at the regional level in Andalucia.
We were very struck by the extent of interdependence of the economies
of Gibraltar and the Campo. More might be done, perhaps through
the European Union's Committee of the Regions or the Atlantic
Arc, to develop the idea of a single economic zone incorporating
Gibraltar and its hinterland. Co-operation is not limited to economic
matters. Already in addition to the fundamental economic links
there are regular meetings between business people, trades unions,
law enforcement and customs officials and others from the two
sides of the border. For example, a cross-border Consultative
Committee has been established.
Mr Caruana told us of the contacts he had developed with the local
authorities at the level of town, provincial deputation and region.
What he has done to secure an agreement with local Spanish fishing
interests demonstrates how progress can be made. Gibraltarian
witnesses argued that leaving Madrid out of the equation might
help this process. For example, the Gibraltar Council of the European
Movement wrote that the "present campaign of harassment"
will "only achieve the souring of relationships between Gibraltar
and the neighbouring towns."
The Gibraltar Labour Party believed that "interregional co-operation
without Madrid/London interference could be the way ahead."
The devolved governmental structure in Spain makes possible a
substantial level of development of policy on economic development
and co-operation at regional level in Andalucia, but ultimately
the foreign policy is determined in Madrid.
The Brussels Process
115. Relations between London and Madrid over Gibraltar
are at present set within the Brussels Process, and there is the
outstanding matter of the Matutes proposals of December 1997.
The FCO told us that the Foreign Secretary had agreed to examine
Señor Matutes's proposals, but emphasised that the Government
stood by the commitment of the Preamble to the 1969 Constitution.
The Foreign Secretary reiterated the 1969 commitment at the meeting
with Señor Matutes in December 1997.
However, no formal British reply to Señor Matutes's proposals
has yet been made,
though the Government has promised to respond to them at the next
meeting in the Brussels Process, for which no date has yet been
Ms Quin told us that a delay in responding to such proposals was
"in line with the way that these issues have been discussed
since the Brussels Process was set up in the early 1980's."
The principal reason for the delay in responding is undoubtedly
the concern that a negative response may precipitate the adverse
consequences which Señor Matutes has threatened. After
all, the agreement of the Brussels Process in 1984 was linked
to the opening of the border in 1985. The same considerations
probably lay behind the fact that the previous Government took
eight years to respond to the Moran proposals of 1985.
116. There is a very widespread view in Gibraltar
that the Matutes Proposals should be rejected. According to the
Gibraltar Government, the proposals are "wholly unacceptable
to the people of Gibraltar."
A petition calling for their rejection and signed by 12,499 Gibraltarians
was presented to the Prime Minister on 10 December 1998, and later
that month the Gibraltarian House of Assembly unanimously passed
a resolution to this effect.
Opposition politicians in Gibraltar put it to us that, in effect,
the British Government therefore had no choice but to reject the
proposals if it truly wished to respect the wishes of the Gibraltarian
people as it claimed that it did. For the proposals to remain
on the table, "makes a mockery of the commitment to respect
the wishes of the people of Gibraltar," according to the
Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party and the Liberal Party of Gibraltar.
Sir Robert J. Peliza, the former Chief Minister, described the
whole Brussels Process as "nefarious";
and another Gibraltarian witness argued that it was "a weakness
in diplomacy" that the proposals were not rejected outright.
117. Mr Caruana told us that the sooner the Matutes
proposals were rejected, "the sooner the possibility at least
arises of Spain modifying her position, moderating her approach
and engaging in a more practical way forward that leaves the issue
of sovereignty to one side".
Challenged to justify this position, he told the Committee that
"the rejection of the Matutes proposals is not synonymous
with discontinuing discussions on sovereignty".
He made it clear that he would prefer it if sovereignty had not
formed part of the discussion process between the United Kingdom
and Spain, but he also told us that his Government had "always
understood ... that you cannot sensibly expect to engage Madrid
in a process of dialogue in which they are not free even to raise
the matter that is most of interest to them, and that is sovereignty".
118. The Gibraltar Government had in written evidence
drawn our attention to what they saw as the "most welcome
acknowledgement" by Señor Matutes at the time he presented
his proposals that Spain did not wish to have a solution to the
sovereignty dispute imposed upon the people of Gibraltar.
The Spanish Government must realise that respect for the democratic
will of the Gibraltarian people as to their constitutional future
is the base line of British Government policy. There is certainly
no willingness, either in Gibraltar or in the United Kingdom,
to contemplate Spanish joint sovereignty as a response to threats
of Spanish action against Gibraltar.
Any Spanish belief to the contrary is profoundly misconceived.
On the other hand, it has been perfectly legitimate for successive
Spanish Governments to raise the issue of sovereignty under the
Brussels Processand understandable for them to accuse British
Governments of bad faith if substantive progress on sovereignty
is regarded as a non-starter on the British side. Mr Caruana himself
spoke of the "false hopes" which the Brussels Process
engendered in Spain.
119. We questioned Ms Quin about the wisdom of continuing
with the Brussels Process so long as discussions about sovereignty
remained possible under the Process. She argued that any realistic
approach to discussions with Spain about Gibraltar had to consider
these constitutional questions; that to take discussions about
sovereignty out of the Brussels Process would be "tantamount
to dismantling" the Process; and that it was not the Government's
policy to dismantle the Process.
We disagree. We believe that the Government must reject Señor
Matutes's proposals. We also believe that there is no likelihood
that there will be any change of opinion on the question of sovereignty.
In these circumstances, we believe that the Brussels Process is
itself a greater impediment than an aid to progress, creating
as it does exaggerated fears in Gibraltar and false hopes in Spain.
It is now the right time to move the agenda onward. We recommend
that Señor Matutes's proposals be rejected, and that the
Brussels Process be replaced by a new phase in British/Spanish
relations over Gibraltar.
A new phase in British/Spanish relations over
120. First of all, we note that there are many meetings
between British and Spanish Ministers and senior officials (including
the new series of summit meetings between the two Prime Ministers)
at which Gibraltar is discussed, but which do not form part of
the Brussels Process.
Secondly, the Brussels Process is, in fact, concerned with a great
deal more than sovereignty: it is about "promoting co-operation
on a mutually beneficial basis on economic, cultural, touristic,
aviation, military and environmental matters". In rejecting
Señor Matutes's sovereignty proposals and moving on from
the Brussels Process, the British Government needs to build up
an alternative and positive programme of real benefit both to
Gibraltar and to Spain. We recommend a new process of regular
dialogue on those many other areas where agreement and co-operation
could yield substantial benefits to Gibraltarians and Spanish
121. One of the most interesting pieces of evidence
we received (and the only evidence from Spain) was submitted by
Señor Rafael Estrella.
Señor Estrella's Memorandum was submitted in a personal
capacity, but he is the Foreign Affairs parliamentary spokesman
of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). He is also a Deputy representing
Granada in Andalucia. Señor Estrella identified Gibraltar
as constituting "increasingly" an obstacle to bilateral
Spanish/British relations and he wrote of the "most serious
crisis between Spain and Britain since the beginning of the Spanish
democracy" which had been occasioned by the lack of understanding
during the fishing dispute. He believed that the "sovereignty
factor" overshadowed politics in Gibraltar so preventing
the communities on either side of the border from developing a
normal relationship. Señor Estrella shares a number of
Spanish perceptions of Gibraltar (he writes of "lack of implementation
in Gibraltar of EU legislation" and the "lack of transparency
in financial activities," for example), and he argues against
integration or other constitutional change. However, he also advocates
"an understanding to put aside the sovereignty factor for
a given period and an undertaking to explore areas of co-operation."
For him, the Brussels Process "provides the appropriate forum
for this new approach; indeed, it contains a sound basis for co-operation."
He also favours dialogue between Gibraltar and Spain as part of
that Process. The possible result of this amelioration of relations
was described in an article which Señor Estrella wrote
in the Gibraltar Chronicle on 21 January 1999 after he
paid a visit to Gibraltar. It is worth quoting his vision of the
future which would be possible:
"One can easily imagine some of the steps that,
under a new environment, might be taken without permanent changes
in the status quo: a return to normality in fishing activities,
a stable and smooth passage at the La Linea gate, a joint, cohesive
approach to the implicationspositive and negativeof
financial and other aspects (VAT, etc) of Gibraltar economy, tourism
co-operation, includingwhy not?assessing perspectives
for a joint use of the airport, etc.
Citizens of Gibraltar and the Campo would be the
driving forces responding to these challenges. Confidence-building,
even if reversible, should be stable and removed from uncertainty
for a given period of time, after which we would be able to evaluate
upon realities and results and to address a further course of
122. Mr Caruana believed that Señor Estrella's
approach had "much to commend it", and was "entirely
compatible" with the approach of the Government of Gibraltar
which he characterised as:
"Sovereignty is an intractable problem, there
isn't going to be any progress on it. Let's engage in dialogue,
let's engage in bridge-building and let's see what can or cannot
be achieved leaving sovereignty to one side".
Unless the wishes of the Gibraltarian people were
overridden on sovereignty (and there was no suspicion that this
might happen), the Chief Minister thought there was:
"No alternative but to engage in a more constructive
policy of dialogue and bridgebuilding and trying to eliminate
the tensions which have historically characterised the relationships,
so that future generations can address this issue in whatever
new light and new spirit is then prevailing."
The Committee considers the views of Señor
Estrella and Mr Caruana to be helpful, constructive and enlightened,
and to demonstrate the best way forward for Gibraltar, Spain and
the United Kingdom.
123. We believe that the construction of a new relationship
must involve the Gibraltarian Government in direct discussions
with Madrid. So far as Spain has practical worries about Gibraltar
- smuggling, company law, tax evasion - these issues are best
discussed with the involvement of the democratically-elected Head
of Government in Gibraltar. Mr Caruana is anxious for direct discussions
to happen - he told us that he would "dearly like to engage
the central government in Madrid in dialogue".
There is an understandable sensitivity in Spain not to accord
anything approaching national status to Gibraltar, and this was
recognised by Mr Caruana.
This policy was very clear during the fishing dispute. However,
Mr Caruana supported the "two flags, three voices" approach
which has been adopted in the past.
He called for the structure of the dialogue to be modified "so
that it is not purely bilateral dialogue between the United Kingdom
and Spain, ... but ... a process of dialogue in which Gibraltar
feels it is taking part in a way and with a quality of representation,
and with a quality of participation, which reflects the fact that
ultimately what is being discussed is Gibraltar and our affairs".
We agree with this approach, which should apply to any future
meetings at ministerial level when Gibraltar is on the agenda.
We recommend that the new process of dialogue should put issues
of sovereignty on hold, and concentrate on exploring areas of
co-operation. The full participation, on the United Kingdom side,
of the Government of Gibraltar would be essential.
253 HC Deb 15 April 1999 c. 305. Back
HC Deb 15 April 1999 c. 305. Back
Full text of Doorstep Interview published by No.10 Downing Street
HC Deb. 21 April 1999 c. 595. Back
Ev. p. 111 (Appendix 30). Back
Ev. p. 81. Back
Ev. p. 24. Back
Ev. p. 86. Back
Ev. p. 98. Back
Ev. p. 106. Back
Ev. p. 87. Back
Ev. p. 91. Back
Ev. p. 4, para 34 for past representations. These representations
continue-see Ev. p. 111 (Appendix 30). Back
Ev. p. 109. Back
Ev. p. 104. Back
Ev. p. 4, para.27. Back
Ev. p. 4, paras. 27 and 28. Back
HC Deb 4 March 1999 c. 878; Q72. Back
Ev. p. 38, para. 54. Back
Ev. p. 39, paras. 58-59; p. 4, para. 29. Back
Ev. p. 89 (Appendix 4, para. 3). Back
Ev. p. 82. Back
Ev. p. 105 (Appendix 23). Back
Ev. p. 39, para. 61. Back
Ev. p. 9, Annex. Back
Ev. pp. 100ff. Back
Ev. p. 40, paras 65-67; Q153. Back