October 2001



To form a sound opinion on how to steer Gibraltar out of the grave international and constitutional situation it finds itself currently one has to look back and find out why and how this has happened

The Foreign Office set its policy of negotiating Gibraltar's British sovereignty a good 40 years ago. In the 1960s Michael Stewart, Labour Foreign Secretary, well known as a Foreign Office man, against the wishes of the Gibraltarians agreed under duress to talk with Spain about their claim to Gibraltar's sovereignty.

The Integration with Britain Movement I led at the time strongly objected and suggested as a sign of public protest that Gibraltar is dressed up in black bunting. This was thought to be too harsh by other parties and was substituted with a candle light procession to Shrine of Our Lady of Europa. The procession took place with much support but it did not dissuade the British Government from holding the talks and symbolically at least, Gibraltar's position was weakened. This ignominious first act of erosion of Gibraltar's sovereignty was openly carried out against the overwhelming wishes of the Gibraltarians as was later manifested in the 1967 Referendum when in a 95.8 poll, 12,138 voted for retaining the links with Britain and only a mere 44 for a Spanish Gibraltar.

This democratic pronouncement of the people did not stop the Foreign Office in its track. Lord Home, then Foreign Secretary in the newly elected Conservative Government, told me face to my face, that the conflict with Spain over Gibraltar might be solved with an offer of a 25 years leaseback. Subsequently the Governor, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Varyl Begg called the Leader of the Opposition, the late Sir Joshua Hassan and myself to a meeting to discuss, what he termed, "A Gibraltarian View", a sketch agenda on which to initiate talks with Spain. It said that whilst it would be repugnant to talk about sovereignty because Spain, could apply more restrictions and cause more problem at the United Nations it would be reasonable to talk without preconditions. Talking without preconditions meant that sovereignty could be included and in this respect the view did not reflect the written representations my Government had made to the Governor a few days earlier.

My precondition to participate in any talks with Spain was based on the concurrence of a united front approach by the Foreign Office, the Gibraltar Government and the Opposition. In practical terms this meant to me Gibraltar being represented by a delegation made up by a UK Minister heading it, Sir Joshua and myself. However beforehand the delegation would have to be in full agreement on their objectives and only if this unity of purpose could be reached would I agree to the talks. I had no romanticized ideas of dialogue with Spain as some other Gibraltar leaders had and as some presently have. Gibraltar has no clout with Spain at a tough and rough negotiating table. Therefore the clout necessary to influence the envisaged talks necessarily had to be provided by Britain. Hence the leading position of the UK Minister.

The situation has not changed and in the real world the presence of Gibraltar at any negotiations with Spain can only be positive for Gibraltar if Britain supports Gibraltar's position but negative if the views of Britain and of Gibraltar are not reconcilable. In which case Gibraltar's regrettable alternative is to oppose the holding of the talks with Spain and as a last resort boycotting it as it should be doing with the Brussels Process. The fact the Government may have a mandate to attend the Brussels Talks does not mean it cannot be criticized or opposed on the issue. To advocate curtailing that vital function of dissenting parties is suggestive of depleting parliamentary democracy by somewhat assimilating it to a one party system.

Because of the veiled issue of sovereignty included in the tentative agenda under the "no preconditions" clause, I sounded Sir Joshua on it to find out if he and I could agree on a united stand on sovereignty. Realistically assuming that the 25 years lease would be raised under the "no preconditions" clause, I quizzed Sir Joshua on it. As he replied that the people might think there were virtues in a lease, which obviously meant that he was prepared to examine this issue of sovereignty which was anathema to me, I felt it a waste of time to continue to be present, so I withdrew from the meeting.

Fearing that one of my Minister who seemed over ambitious might cross the floor and enable Sir Joshua to form Government and consider a leaseback, to prevent such a possibility I called an early election. Unfortunately we lost the election by 234 votes and as I feared the erosion on sovereignty continued with the nefarious 1984 Brussels Agreement acquiesced by Sir Joshua Hassan with a reservation on sovereignty. This impotent reservation did not stop the Airport Agreement that Sir Joshua Hassan said was the best deal possible and led to Sir Joshua handing over his responsibilities to his loyal deputy Adolfo Canepa shortly before the 1988 election which gave his successor little time to establish his leadership. Lamentably, the Airport Agreement continues to torment Gibraltar as experienced by Air Liberalisation and the exclusion from the Single Sky EU accords. These are serious setbacks for Gibraltar's sovereignty of the isthmus.

Joe Bossano became Chief Minister after the Gibraltar Social Labour Party won the 1988 election. He boycotted the Brussels Process and fought vigorously to save Gibraltar form the ruinous financial situation that would have followed the payment of #220m in pensions to the Spanish workers, withdrawn from Gibraltar by General Franco when he started the 16 years siege in 1969. At the time my Government suggested the money paid by the workers into the pensions funds be handed back to them or to the Spanish Government. Apparently these suggestions did not meet with Spanish approval. As usual the Foreign Office did nothing effective about it and later tried to saddle Gibraltar with a crippling financial problem they compounded under the Brussels Process. Bossano won the battle and got the British Government to foot the bill, but mendaciously the money bring paid in Spanish workers pensions is accounted for as financial aid to Gibraltar. Another intended distortion of the truth, harmful for Gibraltar and construed by the Foreign Office to justify the on going appeasement of Spain.

During the 8 years of GSLP Government the Brussels Process was halted. As a form of countermeasure to the Brussels Agreement, action to gain the right to self-determination was popularized with the formation of the Self-determination Gibraltar Group that so successfully organizes the annual rally and celebrations on the 10 September, Gibraltar National Day. The raison d'etre of this lobbying organization is to ensure that the Brussels Agreement does not achieve its objective of decolonising Gibraltar by integration with Spain. Self-determination is therefore diametrically opposed the principal aim of the Brussels Agreement. It necessarily follows that it is self-contradictory and absurd for any individual or political entity to support both. .

At this point I must make some observations on myself to make it abundantly clear that this opinion is nonpartisan. I do not belong to any political party but as depicted in my biographical background that follows I am very patriotically British Gibraltarian and Gibraltarian British.

With permission from the Commander in Chief I took up politics in 1945 whilst a serving Officer with the Gibraltar Defence Force .I was elected to the reconstituted City Council with the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights. I took up politics for the same reason that I volunteered into the Gibraltar Defence Force, to fight patriotically for all the freedoms rights and responsibilities comprised in our British Sovereignty. In expressing this 'opinion' I am continuing to do just that

From message delivered by Mr Hain we gather Gibraltarians are about to face the moment of truth. I personally foresaw this moment coming at our last General Election. It moved me to write, print and distribute in my own time and at my own expense a nonpartisan open letter, advising the electors not to vote for candidates who were not unequivocally opposed to the Brussels Process for the reasons I repeat and reiterate in this opinion.

It is because there has been no unqualified rejection of the Brussels stratagem by our Government that I think it timely, on the eve of the forthcoming Brussels Talks, to contribute this humble personal opinion to the ongoing debate. It is a crucial fundamental issue directly involving the future of the Gibraltarians. I have referred to the Government specifically, and not to the Chief Minister in particular because all Ministers bear collective responsibility under the British Government practices followed in Gibraltar by which the Chief Minister is constitutionally the first amongst equals. However he leads the Government and therefore without being personal, inevitably some of the comments are naturally directed at him. For this reason I have in the past written various letters to him personally drawing attention to the risks Gibraltar is being exposed simply by his adhesion to the Brussels Agreement. I have had no response to any of my communications so I do not know the intricacies of his thinking.

May be it is just a political stunt to catch votes from the three sides of the triangle of voters. From those who honestly believe Gibraltar stands to gain from an 'arreglito' involving sovereignty. From those who think it is safe to attend the Brussels under the conditions set by the Chief Minister. And from those who hearing him speak so loudly clamouring for self- determination believe it infra dig for him to attend the Brussels Talks. It has to be realized that simply by the Chief Minister associating himself with Brussels, he is giving the process a colour of right and therefore legitimacy. In this respect in my view he is doing a serious disservice to Gibraltar and should totally disassociate himself and correlatively his Government from the Agreement. By taking this step as well as making the situation safe for Gibraltar he would bring unity into the political field at a time when it is most needed

My conviction of the dangers inherent in the Agreement is rooted in unquestionable and indisputable facts as follows. The Brussels Agreement was hatched by Lord Howe and Sr Fernando Moran and became operative in Feb 1985. It was a deal that in the light of Lord Howe suited Britain's interests and its overall good relations with Spain. In the view of Sr Moran because it favoured Spain as a historical leap forward in their claim for Gibraltar by specifically including the start of negotiations on Gibraltar's sovereignties. Yet Spain's ultimate objective is to oust Britain out of the Strait of Gibraltar. To this effect, Sr Moran said (26 June 95), Gibraltar is an obstacle to Spain's control of the Strait and the area about North Africa. Such is the mastery of Spanish diplomacy over its British counterpart that since then Spain has wrested the NATO base away from Gibraltar without complying with her quid pro quo undertaking of lifting the restrictions on NATO ships and planes moving from Gibraltar directly to a Spanish seaport or airport. Indeed very recently the Spanish Foreign Minister has made public his interest in Spain becoming engaged in the military aspects of Gibraltar. During the unwelcome long stay of the damaged nuclear submarine HMS Tireless the Chief Minister rightly gave a hue and cry when he suspected the Spanish Government were in the process of becoming militarily involved in the base. He should be wary of this happening if he does not end his flirtation with the Brussels Process. He should not desist abandoning the Brussels Agreement to avoid being criticized for doing a U-turn. In any case there is nothing wrong in changing one's conclusions if the facts in the analytical equation change as they have with Mr Hain's recent visit.

The Chief Minister has to accept that the Brussels Agreement tacitly complies with the United Nations General Assembly resolution 2352(XXII) of 1967 which contrary to the fundamental principle of the Charter recommended that Gibraltar be decolonised by integrating with Spain. This Resolution derives from the 1964 Committee of 24 Resolution 1514(XV) that calls for the decolonisation of Gibraltar under para. 6 as against paras. 2 and 5, that sanction self-determination as the mode of decolonising a people. Worse still, Resolution 2429 of 1968 made the recommendation more forceful by calling on Britain and Spain to terminate the "colonial situation" not later than the 1 October 1969. Britain reinforced the Garrison at the time to deter Spain from any possible aggression encouraged by the Resolution. Obviously the Brussels Process harbours ill omens for Gibraltar because its final outcome is predetermined just as the Matutes Proposals are. For this reason the Chief Minister rightly will not entertain discussing the Matutes Proposals but by the same token he should disassociate himself from the Brussels Agreement since its outcome is equally predetermined. Such inconsistency can be a symptom of selective political blindness.

Mr Hain came to Gibraltar to knock down one British Rock with two FCO expletive boulders. One coated with sweetening language to lure opinion towards the trap of the Brussels Talks and the other with bulling terminology to enrage, irate and incite hyper British Gibraltarians to shout, "British go home"! Thus ensuring that if the softly, softly approached works he gets the Chief Minister to attend the Talks but if on the other hand it fails the Foreign Office trust the indignation caused will give rise to anti-British sentiments in the masses. This will send signals to the British media and Parliament that the Gibraltarians no longer wish to have links with Britain. They know from experience this will alienate the support Gibraltar enjoys from its many British friends and provide the Foreign Office with a free hand to bid good-bye to the Preamble at the opportune time when they can get the required Act through Parliament. They are master spinners and chess aces and can dress up and plan many moves ahead.

The people of Gibraltar must eschew either boulder by boycotting Brussels and by refraining from expressing any general anti- British remarks remembering that it is the Foreign Office not Parliament or the British people who are acting so despicably against British Gibraltar.

Parliament has over the past two centuries stopped various British Administrations handing over the Rock to Spain. Through Parliament we got the Preamble and British citizenship. This was possible because over the years the IWBP built up in both Houses of Parliament massive support by organizing letter writing to MPs and Peers. They were adopted individually as political pen pals, with whom they corresponded regularly to keep them abreast of events and developments in Gibraltar. The control centre was located in Main Street, at Ferrary Ironmongers where the late John Culatto kept a chart with the names of the correspondents. It worked then and there is every reason why it should work now in an age of facsimiles and e-mails. Furthermore it should be possible to form a League of Friend of Gibraltar in the United Kingdom. These are thoughts for Gibraltar political bodies to ponder over and together organize a system that democratically will put an end to the outrageous abuses committed against the British, human, national and international rights of the Gibraltarians by successive British Government.

The report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons recommended the termination of the Brussels Agreement. The Chief Minister did not enthusiastically take this golden opportunity to disown the Agreement. Instead he continued to favour Brussels and let down the Chairman Donald Anderson who obviously stuck his neck out in defence of Gibraltar. The Chief Minister has now run to the FCA Committee for support and I am sure he will get it.

It is encouraging to note the Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group and Voice of Gibraltar Group, have attained support from the Government and the Opposition, for an orderly public protestation. Here is an opportunity for the people to demonstrate democratically against the acts of omission and commission of the British Government against the interests and rights of Gibraltar and its people. FCO's lack of goodwill for Gibraltar was exemplified by the attitude of the Minister responsible for Gibraltar, Mr Peter Hain during his recent visit. Gibraltarians of all ages should attend the demonstration to express their revulsion against the prejudicial policy of the British Government on British Gibraltar but must be extra careful not to alienate the people of Britain or the British Parliamentarians who patriotically are very supportive for Gibraltar.

Finally to keep up with globalization, perhaps Sir William Jackson's dictum should be updated to read, "Gibraltar is not for Spain to take or Britain or any world authority to give, as it belongs to the Gibraltarians"!

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