Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Hon. Joseph Bossano MHA, Leader of the Opposition, Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party

  1.  I wish to draw to the Committee's attention a number of inaccuracies in the statement of Mr Hain and the flaw in the thinking behind the re-launched Brussels process.

  2.  Mr Hain says that Brussels is no more than a label. It is in fact much more. It is a negotiating process to settle Gibraltar's future status and bring about its decolonisation.

  3.  This is clear from the consensus decision of the UN, which in 1985, welcomed its signing as the commencement of the process to settle the question of Gibraltar by negotiation with Spain. I and my Party, opposed it from day one. Between 1988 and 1996, when the GSLP was in Government, the Conservative Government made no attempt to use the process to negotiate a new status for Gibraltar, because it knew we had been elected on a mandate to prevent this and they respected the wishes of the Gibraltarians. At no stage until now, has any previous UK Government declared the status quo to be unsustainable. Mr Hain has made two conflicting statements in his evidence. He says that neither he nor the Foreign Secretary want to take on this matter, that it would be simpler to allow the present position to continue. He claims, however, that this is unsustainable and the responsible thing is to attempt to obtain a solution acceptable to UK, Spain and Gibraltar.

  4.  He then goes on to say that if the attempt fails and it is not possible to achieve the declared objective of a new EU status by the summer, on which Gibraltar will have a veto in a referendum, then the attempt would be abandoned and the status quo would continue. Therefore, it must be sustainable.

  5.  Secondly, even if agreement with Spain is reached, he has been left in no doubt that the solution that is being indicated, is one which is going to be massively rejected. The statements by the Chief Minister to the Committee and on National Day in Gibraltar on 10 September 2001, made clear that Gibraltar would not accept any Spanish involvement, let alone sovereignty changes in order to obtain Spain's compliance with its EU obligations in respect of Gibraltar.

  6.  To proceed down the road in the knowledge of its rejection, will not improve relations with Spain, and is not doing anything to bring benefit to the people of Gibraltar.

  7.  Mr Hain says those who oppose the negotiations for a new Gibraltar constitution with Spain under Brussels, have no alternative. This is not true. The alternative is for the UK and us to negotiate a new constitution that changes our status as a colony but retains British sovereignty.

  8.  Mr Hain has already told the House of Commons that as long as we were not seeking independence, it would not breach Utrecht. Contrary to what he told your Committee, no-one in Gibraltar has suggested to our Constitutional Committee, whose work is nearing completion, that we should ask for independence.

  9.  One option available for decolonisation is integration with the United Kingdom. Mr Hain says this is prohibited by Utrecht. This is complete nonsense. The UK's position until now has always been that Utrecht did not prohibit integration. It is Spain which has argued the contrary and the UK now seems to have given in to Spain even on this. The reference to Ceuta by the Minister was a complete red herring. Mr Hain was also asked why the UK refused to refer the supposed conflict between Utrecht and self determination to the International Court. He said it had been tried in 1966 and Spain had refused. This is not true. In 1966 the Wilson Government offered to refer for adjudication the disputed British sovereignty of the Isthmus, which is not in Utrecht. Therefore, the reference had nothing to do with the reversion clause in Annex X of the Treaty. Spain refused in 1966, and a dispute between two states cannot be adjudicated by the ICJ without both parties taking part. The request to the UK, which the House of Assembly has made, is for it to seek an advisory opinion on whether Utrecht constrains our right to self determination. Such a request does not require Spain's consent.

  10.  Both Joyce Quinn and Keith Vaz, undertook to reconsider this matter when they held office and I made representations to them on the subject. The UK's position then was that by winning, we would simply antagonise Spain more. We believe demonstrating that international law is on our side, is important enough to risk Spain's animosity.

  11.  Mr Hain was asked what evidence he had to suggest that there had been a change of heart amongst Gibraltarians, since the 1967 Referendum. He has visited Gibraltar and knows full well that there has not been a change of heart. He then went on to say he had been encouraged by the experience of the Northern Ireland agreement. In Northern Ireland, the people were divided about whether to remain as part of the UK or join the Irish Republic. No such division exists in Gibraltar about joining Spain. There is almost unanimity about not becoming part of Spain.

  12.  As I understand, before the negotiating process started in Northern Ireland, people were asked whether they wanted the negotiations to proceed. No such choice is being given to the Gibraltarians.

  13.  Mr Hain told us in Gibraltar, and has made clear in Parliament, that the negotiations with Spain will proceed with or without our support. He told you he had asked for the Opposition to support Mr Caruana's participation in the relaunch of the Brussels negotiations. This is true, but he did not say we had refused to give such support.

  14.  Mr Hain would have you believe he has our best interests at heart, but the UK has previously stated that they consider our interests and our wishes are inseparable and we do not wish him to negotiate our future with Spain. He claims already to have won benefits for us. This is not true. Spain is the only country in the world that refuses to recognise our international country code 350. Gibraltar can only be telephoned from Spain by the area code of Cadiz, as if it were integrated with Spain. The UK has failed to get the Commission to initiate legal proceedings against Spain to enforce our legal rights.

  15.  The extra telephone numbers for Cadiz allocated to Gibraltar, do not address the issue and is not what the Gibraltar Government has asked of Spain. The excuse that Spain does not recognise our code because we do not have VAT is complete rubbish. VAT payable in Spain on calls made to Gibraltar, would still be payable if the 350 code was used. The fact that telephone subscribers in Gibraltar do not pay VAT on calls to Spain or anywhere else, has no effect on Spain whatsoever.

  16.  Mr Hain said that for the first time Spain has agreed we can have more self government. This is not true. In 1985, at the start of Brussels, this was offered as part of a sovereignty deal by Foreign Minister, Fernando Moran. The deal was rejected by the UK at the request of my Government in 1993. We do not accept that Spain has any say whatsoever in the level of self government under British sovereignty, and as we will never accept Spanish sovereignty, the question of self government under Spain is academic.

  17.  Mr Hain also said that the UK would be able to grant us EU voting rights by changing UK law because Spain had agreed. The UK's position previously was that the UK law could not be changed because what was required was an amendment to the European Act on direct elections and the unanimity of all member states. This was the defence in the House of Lords of Baroness Symmonds when Lord Bethel attempted to include Gibraltarians in the EU elections Bill.

  18.  The UK argued that Spain could block changes to the EU Act which was the only route. It now seems that even to change the UK's domestic legislation, Spain's permission is sought. The way in which we are enfranchised is for us and the UK alone and is not a matter for negotiation with Spain.

  19.  The other win, according to Mr Hain, is Spain's offer to give access to health care in Spain. No such request has been made, according to the Gibraltar Government. Gibraltar spends £3m a year in sponsoring patients to the UK and will continue to do so. Some 800 patients go to the UK and 80 go to Spain currently, without it being part of any package deal. We pay Spain and the UK.

  20.  Mr Hain's ignorance of Gibraltar is clearly demonstrated by his answers. He is totally incapable of negotiating a bright new future for us with Spain, since his knowledge of how Gibraltar functions currently, seems to be entirely based on Spanish perceptions which are in the main totally incorrect.

  21.  He has also said, if he is unable to reach agreement with Spain, the present position will prevail and we will continue to face Spanish impediments to our development. He fails to understand that quite apart from any other consideration of our wishes for our country not to be a part of Spain, and to retain its links with Britain, Gibraltar has been successful in the last 20 years in overcoming the virtual disappearance of the MOD and creating a viable economy, in spite of Spanish restrictions.

  22.  The alternative that he paints is for us worse than the status quo and the UK should drop its attempt to reach an agreement with Spain on the terms that have been suggested, especially in the knowledge that it will be rejected by us and, if anything, generate a worsening of relations with our neighbours than exist at present.

  23.  I would ask your Committee, in the light of the evidence before it, to recommend that the negotiations currently under way, should be discontinued.

Hon Joseph Bossano

Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party


30 November 2001

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