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