1 Introduction |
1. Spain has long disputed the UK's
sovereignty over Gibraltar, which is located at the southern tip
of the Iberian Peninsula and is one of the UK's fourteen remaining
Overseas Territories. The last three years have seen an increase
in tensions between Spain and the UK over the status of Gibraltar,
with increased maritime incursions into British Gibraltarian Territorial
Waters (BGTW) and a prolonged suspension of diplomatic talks between
the three parties. In the summer of 2013, the dispute received
international coverage when Spain imposed controls on the border
resulting in delays of up to seven hours for vehicles passing
in and out of Gibraltar. The incident prompted diplomatic complaints,
and a referral to the European Commission by both the UK and Spain.
The Foreign Secretary made a Statement to the House of Commons
on 2 September 2013 in which he described the actions and threats
of the Spanish Government as an attempt to exert pressure on the
people of Gibraltar that was "wholly unacceptable".
He said that the heightened rhetoric of the Spanish Foreign Minister
was concerning and "clearly intimidating to the people of
Gibraltar"; and he suggested that "there may be worse
to come from the Spanish Government".
2. The Committee maintains an interest
of the FCO's work on the Overseas Territories, and in December
2013 it held its annual evidence session on the Overseas Territories
from Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, Mark Simmonds MP.
In the lightof theproblems duringsummer 2013in Gibraltar, we took
the opportunity to ask Mark Simmonds about the dispute. We then
visited Gibraltar in March 2014, where we took evidence from the
Chief Minister, the Hon. Fabian Picardo, and met a range of local
officials and representatives(a list can be found in Annex A).
Following our return, we held an evidence session on Gibraltar
with the Minister for Europe, the Rt Hon. David Lidington MP,
in April 2014. Although we did not put out an official call for
evidence, we received some correspondence from concerned members
of the public, along with data from the Government of Gibraltar,
to which we refer in this report.
3. We twice invited the Spanish Ambassador
to the UK, His Excellency Federico Trillo-Figueroa, to give evidence
to the Committee's inquiry.The Ambassadormet privately with the
Committee Chairman, and then offered a private meeting with the
Committee. We declined this invitation because we wanted to get
evidence on-the record. The Ambassador later provided a translated
transcript of a statement on Gibraltar by the Spanish Foreign
Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, to Spain's own Foreign Affairs
Committee in September 2013.
4. In this report, we consider the current
situation in Gibraltar and the extent to which the border and
maritime problems have been resolved since summer 2013. We acknowledge
that the UK has a strong and close relationship with Spain, which
has been home tohundreds of thousands of British nationals for
decades. Weconsider the various means by which Spain is nonetheless
exerting pressure on Gibraltar, including at the border and via
European Union institutions. We go on to assess the UK Government's
policies toward Gibraltar, and whether the UK Government's actions
are effective and proportionate to the problems in Gibraltar.
5. This report builds on a number of
important reports by our predecessor Committees on Gibraltar.These
include a detailed report in 1999 at a time of similar border
and maritime difficulties; two follow-up reports in 2000 and 2001;
and further detailed reports in late 2001 and 2002 at the time
of joint sovereignty talks between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar.
The Committee returned to the issue in its 2008 report on the
Overseas Territories, which also made recommendations about the
UK-Spain dispute over Gibraltar.
1 HC Deb, 2 September 2013, col 11WS Back
Foreign Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 1998-99, Gibraltar,
HC 366; Foreign Affairs Committee, Ninth Report of Session 1999-2000,
Gibraltar: Follow-up, HC 863; Foreign Affairs Committee,
Sixth Report of Session 2000-01, Gibraltar, HC 319; Foreign
Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2001-02, Gibraltar,
HC 413; and Foreign Affairs Committee, Eleventh Report of Session
2001-02, Gibraltar, HC 973 Back
Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2007-08,
Overseas Territories, HC 147-I Back