Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2

Letters from Hon Peter Caruana QC, Chief Minister, Gibraltar, to Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  (i)  30 January 2002

  At my meeting on Friday evening with James Bevan the discussion turned to the detail of our second requirement in participate in dialogue, namely, that there should be no agreements struck over the head of the Gibraltar Government.

  It became clear that the intention is that the UK and Spain will enter into some form of political statement/declaration/understanding (or whatever) setting out agreed principles or an agreed framework applicable to the settlement of the Gibraltar issue. These would include sovereignty concessions to Spain. This statement/declaration/understanding would not be put to the people of Gibraltar, will be struck before a referendum and will survive rejection in a referendum of more detailed proposals based on those agreed principles or framework. This is a "done deal" of the very worst kind, since its effects cannot be avoided by Gibraltar even by referendum.

  Such a course of action would be a betrayal of the wishes, rights and interests of the people of Gibraltar. As I told James Bevan at that meeting, there are no circumstances in which Gibraltar will take part in dialogue in such circumstances. We will bitterly oppose such a policy.

  I request your written assurance that this course of action, nor any like it, will be pursued and that you will agree to facilitate our participation in safe, proper, open agenda dialogue by agreeing to our proposal for a "two flags, three voices formula", and also that no such agreements will be done above the Gibraltar Government's head.

Peter Caruana

Chief Minister

30 January 2002

  (ii)  20 February 2002

  Thank you for your letter dated 14 February 2002.

  During my late afternoon meeting with James Bevan on 25 January we discussed language to deal with the UN Resolutions/Brussels and separate voice issues. The language is important to our ability to sign off on those issues. I had expected to receive a draft text from James Bevan but it has not been forthcoming yet.

  In my letter to you dated 30 January 2002 I asked you for an assurance that the UK and Spain would not enter into a framework agreement or declaration (or other form of political understanding) containing in principle sovereignty concessions to Spain, which predetermines the outcome of the dialogue and the effect or currency of which would survive (albeit unimplemented in practice) a referendum rejection of proposals based on such framework agreement or declaration.

  Your letter under reply fails to give that assurance. Indeed, it has the opposite effect. You say that you will enter into a joint UK Spanish declaration which will establish a framework for what you think will be a durable solution. We have previously been led to understand that it will contain sovereignty elements, although we do not know the terms, nature or extent of that.

  You further confirm, in your letter under reply, that what you will put to referendum are proposals based on this declaration/framework/agreement, but that the latter would survive the referendum as a statement (joint between UK and Spain) of the "best way forward".

  This means that you may make in principle concessions to Spain on sovereignty (and possibly other issues) the political, diplomatic and possibly even legal (Quaere its effect on the Treaty of Utrecht) effect of which will survive a referendum rejection of proposals.

  This would be unacceptable to the Gibraltar Government and would not represent full respect for the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, since the UK would be entering into arrangements (albeit unimplemented), and would be adopting positions on sovereignty regardless of the wishes of the people of Gibraltar on that subject.

  As you are aware the Gibraltar Government is committed to actively opposing the pursuit of this intended course of action which is very damaging to Gibraltar and the political rights and aspirations of the people of Gibraltar.

  You express the hope that I will participate in "phase two" (post declaration) talks. That will depend entirely on the content of any pre-referendum declaration/agreement that you may sign despite our opposition, protestation and best efforts to prevent it. If it should contain in principle sovereignty concessions to Spain, the subsequent dialogue will be unacceptably predetermined and we will not participate in it, for that reason.

  I feel obliged to point out that by unnecessarily predetermining future dialogue on the question of sovereignty (by making in principle concessions to Spain in a pre-referendum declaration) you will be very severely prejudicing the prospect of Gibraltarian participation in any dialogue for many years to come. That will be very regrettable.

  I do not understand why you insist on this unnecessary course, which can only deliver early and substantial success for Spain at our expense. You may define success as the emergence of something that Gibraltar can accept. I suspect and fear that Spain's definition of success is the Declaration itself, regardless of the subsequent acceptance or rejection of proposals in a referendum. Indeed, Spain has already publicly described this scenario as "an historic milestone" (for her). I describe it as a "historic millstone" around our necks.

  The position that you have adopted, and from which your letter confirms I have been unable to dissuade you, make it impossible for me to participate as I would have wished.

  However, I repeat our often stated willingness to take part in the current process of dialogue on the basis of our well known and longstanding terms, namely, separate voice (agreed, subject to language) and no agreements over the Gibraltar Government's head. The latter would require you to abandon the wholly unnecessary and severely prejudicial chronology of preceding a referendum with a "done deal" on principles which include sovereignty concessions and the effect and currency of which will survive a referendum rejection of proposals based on those principles.

  You say that the proposals "could not evaporate". Does this means that not even the proposals will be removed from the table if rejected in a referendum? That will make a mockery of the referendum. If that is the case then the position is even worse that we had hitherto appreciated. You may however mean that the fact that the proposals had once been put cannot be expunged (you once used the phrase "cannot be airbrushed away"). That is true and not problematical for us. But what you cannot make evaporate which is problematic for us is the pre-referendum declaration of principles. This however misses the point which is that there is no need for such a declaration in the first place. I would urge you to abandon this intention.

  We propose an open agenda dialogue resulting in proposals which will not be implemented if rejected in referendum and which will not be survived by an Anglo-Spanish framework of principles containing damaging, in principle sovereignty concessions to Spain for all time.

Peter Caruana

Chief Minister

20 February 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 7 November 2002