Gibraltar: Time to get off the fence - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Historic background

1.  The difficulties the current Government faces are in part a legacy of regrettable decisions made in 2001-02 to allow for joint sovereignty discussions, which raised expectations on the Spanish side. Since 2004, the Government has sought to correct this by a consistent message that no discussions will take place without the consent of the people of Gibraltar. This is the correct approach, and should be consistently re-affirmed. The 'double lock' has provided Gibraltar with security following a difficult period; this guarantee of self-determination should never be abandoned again. (Paragraph 12)

Suspension of diplomatic talks

2.  Progress on re-starting talks is long overdue. In response to this report, the Government should set out the offer it has made to the Spanish government and its strategy for overcoming the problems. The UK Government should make clear to its international partners that it is a change in Spanish government policy, rather than UK policy,that has brought about the suspension of the much-needed talks. (Paragraph 21)

Illegal incursions into Gibraltarian territorial waters

3.  We are deeply concerned by the cavalier approach taken by Spanish vessels in their attempts to assert an illegitimate form of authority in British Gibraltarian Territorial Waters. We consider that the actions taken by the Government of Gibraltar in relation to the fishing agreement and concrete reef do not justify the increase in incursions, nor the hostile tactics of some of the vessels that conduct them.We recommend a more robust approach in defending British Gibraltarian Territorial Waters. In its response to this report, the Government should set out the naval and police options it has identified to this end; and those it intends to pursue.(Paragraph 30)

Border delays

4.  In its response to this report, the Government should state its position on whether Gibraltar could join Schengen without the rest of the UK, and how it will support the work of the recently-announced consultation. (Paragraph 44)

5.  We are in no doubt that Spain's measures at the border in 2013 were politically motivated and that it continues to use the border as a coercive tool against Gibraltar. This is entirely unacceptable behaviour by an EU partner and should not be tolerated by the UK.(Paragraph 46)

6.  The Government should continue to pursue a stronger response by the European Commission through consistent and sustained follow-up in Brussels. The Government should also encourage further monitoring inspections by the Commission with the minimum possible notice given to both parties.(Paragraph 46)

International pressure

7.  We are particularly concerned by Spain's withdrawal from some aspects of the Cordoba Agreement, representing a significant backward step in relations with Gibraltar, and the UK. As Spain tries to apply pressure via EU aviation legislation, the UK Government should ensure that its EU partners are fully aware that Spain has reneged on an agreement negotiated in good faith, under which the UK has paid over £70 million to Spanish citizens. By continuing to abide by its obligations under the Cordoba Agreement, the UK Government has put itself in a strong position to give weight to this argument. (Paragraph 51)

8.  Spain's claims on Gibraltar are undermined by its defence of its own overseas territories in North Africa. The Spanish Government's arguments about the constitutional differences between Ceuta and Melilla and Gibraltar are unconvincing at best, and leave Spain open to the charge of hypocrisy. (Paragraph 53)

Assessing the UK Government response

9.  Spain is a key partner for the UK both bilaterally and in the EU and NATO. It is a testament to the importance that both states place on the bilateral relationship that it remains strong despite our differences. However, Spain should not be able to pursue aggressive policies toward Gibraltar without consequences for its relationship with London. (Paragraph 59)

Does Spain care more than the UK about the Gibraltar dispute?

10.  Ministerial visits are an important display of support to the people of Gibraltar, as well as a signal to Spain of the UK's continued commitment. We recommend that, in the light of the difficult twelve months that Gibraltar has experienced, the Government consider a high-level visit to Gibraltar before the end of this year and we welcome the fact that the Minister for Europe will be visiting shortly. (Paragraph 65)

Diplomatic protests and summons

11.  When the UK delivers protests about maritime incursions three or four weeks after the actual incident, it robs those protests of any force they might have had and gives the impression of an official simply 'going through the motions'.This might be acceptable at a time of relative harmony, but during this period of heightened pressure on Gibraltar, the Government should re-assess its internal deadlines for delivering diplomatic protests. We recommend that it put in place procedures under which all diplomatic protests to Spain about Gibraltar are delivered within a maximum of seven days.(Paragraph 71)

12.  We recommend that if the situation does not show signs of improvement, the Government should re-assess its criteria for summoning the Spanish Ambassador and should consider doing so more frequently to reflect its ongoing concern about the unacceptable status quo. (Paragraph 73)

Representation in the EU

13.  The failure to prevent British Gibraltarian Territorial Waters from being designated a Site of Community Interest by Spain was a significant mistake which has proven impossible to reverse. The FCO should set out the action it has taken since this incident to ensure that Government departments consider Gibraltar, and Overseas Territories more generally, when representing the UK at EU level. (Paragraph 79)

14.  The Government should keep the option of using Article 259 to take Spain to the European Court under review, pending the final results of the Commission's investigation into the situation at the border. If the situation at the border does not improve within the next six months then the UK should make it clear that it intends to begin legal proceedings against Spain under Article 259. (Paragraph 84)

Representation at the UN

15.  The Government should robustly oppose continued attempts by Spain to use international institutions as a means of securing international support for its case. We again urge the Government to take steps to remove Gibraltar from the UN list of non-self-governing territories. The Government should set out in its response to this report what action it is taking in order to do this. (Paragraph 86)

Alternative means of applying diplomatic pressure

16.  The Government should seek to identify areas of non-essential cooperation and occasions on which British assistance would be helpful to Spain (for example, Spain's bid for membership of the UN Security Council) and make the UK's support dependent on improvements to the situation in Gibraltar. (Paragraph 87)

Royal Navy and military presence

17.  We commend the Government's policy of choosing to use Gibraltar as a stop off point for naval vessels in transit as a sensible and effective measure. (Paragraph 89)

18.  We are disappointed that so little progress has been made in the last 16 years toward lifting Spain's NATO reservation against ships travelling between Spanish and Gibraltarian ports. The UK should actively seek for Spain's NATO reservation on Gibraltar to be overturned and set out in its response to this report how it intends to do so. The Government should also set out any steps it has taken to solicit support from other NATO partners who are inconvenienced in operational matters by Spain's restriction on Gibraltar.(Paragraph 94)


19.  We consider that the pressure currently being applied on Gibraltar by Spain, through the imposition of delays at the border, unwarranted maritime incursions, and diplomatic pressure in international institutions amounts to a campaign of harassment and intimidation.(Paragraph 95)

20.  The UK Government has shown restraint in response to provocation by Spain. It was right to do so: but the UK's approach of consistently trying to de-escalate tensions in the face of mounting provocation has also achieved little discernible effect, aside from giving Gibraltarians the impression that not enough is being done.It is now time for the UK Government, with the agreement of the Government of Gibraltar, to think again about what measures can be taken to discourage Spain from exerting pressure on Gibraltar. (Paragraph 97)

21.  Finally, while intensifying the diplomatic pressure, the Government should make clear to the Spanish Government that there is much goodwill between our peoples and a real desire on the part of the British government to re-start dialogue.(Paragraph 99)

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Prepared 1 July 2014