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

5  Conclusion

95. We do not believe that any Spanish government is likely to renounce its sovereignty claims to Gibraltar in the foreseeable future, but the stance taken by the current Spanish government appears particularly aggressive when it comes to imposing penalties on Gibraltar. We were struck when we visited Gibraltar by the sense that its citizens felt under siege.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.

96. Not only is this unacceptable in a close EU partner, it is also counter-productive, as it only hardens Gibraltarians' feelings toward Spain. Spain must understand that any hope it has of settlement will only be achieved with the goodwill and consent of the people living on Gibraltar. If Spain is indeed using the Gibraltar dispute as a means of drumming up populist sentiment at the expense of the quality of life of Gibraltarians, this is a deeply cynical form of politics.

97. With little prospect of reaching a settlement of the core sovereignty dispute, the UK Government's task is to reach an acceptable status quo for the people on Gibraltar.At present, the status quo is far from acceptable, and there is a pervasive feeling in Gibraltar of being under siege by a bullying and unreasonable power, as well as frustration at the lack of progress. 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.

98. However, the limited measures we have recommended in this report reflect the fact that the UK Government has a narrow scope for action in this regard. It would be counter-productive to engage in tit-for-tat squabbles and there is no desire on the part of the British or Gibraltarian governments to escalate the dispute. The mostresponsible course is for the Government to review and intensify the mechanisms for diplomatic pressure that it is already using, in light of the continuing provocation by the Spanish government. In this context, we have recommend in this report that the UK Government should:

Robustly oppose Spain's attempts to use international institutions

Revive efforts to remove Gibraltar from the UN list of non-self-governing Territories

Increase the speed with which it delivers diplomatic protests, and review criteria for summoning the ambassador

Identify areas of non-essential cooperation and make the UK's support for Spain's international initiatives dependent on improvements in Gibraltar.

99. 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.

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Prepared 1 July 2014