Self-Determination: UK position more consistent with Spanish policy than with their own policy

Before dealing with his Shadow ministerial responsibilities regarding the Budget, Dr Joseph Garcia said in the House that there were a couple of issues that he would like to dwell upon.

He said: "The first point I would like to highlight relates to the attitude of the United Kingdom to the future of Gibraltar. As the House knows, the Opposition has long made the point that any referendum which is organised to accept or reject the new Constitution must be regarded as an act of self-determination by the United Kingdom.

"However, the point that I want to raise is a wider issue than this. The British Government have made it clear that it is their policy that the people of Gibraltar have the right to self-determination but that the exercise of that right is constrained by the Treaty of Utrecht. To them, this means that Gibraltar cannot be independent without Spain?s consent. We totally reject that our right to self-determination is constrained in this way, but given that nobody is asking for independence at this moment in time, it is an academic point today.

"Therefore British Government policy, we have been told, is that Gibraltar can opt for anything except independence. If this is true, then why is it that they have shown themselves to be so petrified about the change in the international status of Gibraltar put forward in our constitutional proposals when these same proposals have never involved independence? The reaction of the Foreign Office can only cast doubt as to whether what they say is their policy, is really their policy or whether it is not. There is an obvious contradiction, Mr Speaker, between what they say is their policy, on the one hand, and the extent to which they are prepared to act in accordance with that policy, on the other.

"The policy of the Spanish Government, for their part, is that Gibraltar can only be a colony or become part of Spain. For the record let me say that we reject this view also. The actions of the Spanish Government, however, are consistent with what their policy is supposed to be.

"The point I want to make is this. In theory the British and the Spanish positions are not the same. The UK is saying that the only option closed to Gibraltar is independence, and Spain is saying we can only be a colony or Spanish.

"In practice, however, actions and behaviour of the United Kingdom are not consistent with what their policy is supposed to be. In fact, their behaviour is more consistent with the policy of Spain than with their own policy as spelt out in the 1999 White Paper on the Overseas Territories.

"This is an area of concern and we will have to wait and see how it develops.


"The second issue I wanted to take the opportunity to raise is the continuing legal challenge mounted by the Spanish Government in the European courts against the manner in which Gibraltar has been enfranchised for European elections. We are in no doubt that the motivation behind this challenge is political and not legal. If Spain is so concerned that Commonwealth nationals can vote in European elections, she could have raised the issue before the 1989 European elections which took place three years after they joined Europe. The timing, after the vote was extended to Gibraltar in 2003, gives the game away."