Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE 2002
MP AND MR
1. Secretary of State, may I welcome you again
to this meeting of the Committee and welcome with you for the
first part of our deliberations, Mr James Bevan, who is the Director
of the South East Europe and Gibraltar and then at 4.45 you will
be joined by Mr Kim Darroch, the Director of the European Union.
That division is because we have decided the ground rules in advance
so that the first half an hour or so of today's meeting will be
on Gibraltar and the rest in relation to the Seville European
Union Council. Secretary of State, first, if I may, in respect
of Gibraltar. There seems to be now an increasing consensus among
observers that the talks under the Brussels process have run into
the sands and will increasingly do so, do you agree?
(Mr Straw) No. The talks have not reached
an end of the current stage. As you may know, and as Mr Hain announced
in the Westminster Hall debate yesterday, I am due to have a further
discussion, informal discussion, in London with Mr Pique, the
Spanish Foreign Minister, on Wednesday next. I should say, also,
that the undertakings which I gave you, Chairman, in a letter
earlier this year, about making a statement to the House about
the House being the first to know and if there is any declaration
there being a proper time between the publication of that declaration
and the time allowed for this Committee to consider it before
there is a debate in the House of course stands.
2. Is it anticipated that the Prime Minister
will be taking the opportunity of Seville to be entering into
bilateral discussions with Senior Aznar?
(Mr Straw) The subject did not come upI was
not present at the discussions with Mr Aznar on Monday, not least
because I was in Luxembourgit did not, according to the
record I have seen, come up on that occasion. I cannot be certain.
It will almost certainly be discussed, but fairly briefly, between
myself and Mr Pique in the margins of Seville. It is worth bearing
in mind that particularly for the country which has the Presidency
their whole focus has to be on the subject of the Presidency.
That is just the way it is. Let me say, Senior Pique and I looked
at the possibility of whether there was going to be any time either
before, during or after the Seville Council, but at Seville, where
we could hold a serious discussion as an informal adjunct to the
Brussels process but we decided it simply was not going to be
3. If when you meet Senior Pique, your opposite
number, next week it is clear that there is unlikely to be any
movement, will you then fold your tent and say "It was a
brave but some would say misguided attempt"?
(Mr Straw) No. Well, you cannot anticipate the outcome
of negotiations until the negotiations have been completed. If
you could anticipate the outcome of negotiations before they were
completed there would be no need to have negotiations and that
is a truth about negotiations which is timeless. You do not know
until you get into the end period of negotiations what is going
to happen and that is the position at the moment.
4. The assumption is that there are three major
roadblocks currently. One, the question of joint sovereignty or
single sovereignty; two, the question of the military facilities
on the Rock, both the air and naval; and three the question of
(Mr Straw) Yes.
5. Turning to the question of sovereignty, is
there any serious expectation that the Government of Spain, under
Mr Aznar, will be prepared to see any arrangement as other than
a staging post on the way to full sovereignty for Spain?
(Mr Straw) We have always ruled out what you described
as single sovereignty which would be a transfer of sovereignty
from the United Kingdom to Spain, full stop. We have made that
clear all the way along, that has never been in negotiations.
6. We have ruled it out. Is there any question
at all that the Spanish Government
(Mr Straw) You are asking me, Mr Anderson, to speak
for the Spanish Government in what at the moment is a bilateral
negotiation, I had hoped would be a trilateral negotiation with
the Government of Gibraltar also present alongside me under the
so-called two flag three voices formula but that was not possible.
I am afraid that is a question you are going to have to ask the
Government of Spain, not the Government of the United Kingdom.
7. I ask you for this reason, that you and the
Prime Minister have been involved in a series of discussions with
your opposite numbers so you must have a pretty serious clear
view now on whether there is any give at all. Is it conceivable
that the Spanish Government would accept an arrangement which
was other than for them a staging post on the way to full sovereignty?
(Mr Straw) The purpose of these negotiations within
the Brussels process, as it has been ever since 1984, since they
were announced by the Thatcher Government, is to try and resolve
by negotiation the dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain
about the status of Gibraltar. What is the basis of that dispute,
aside from, as it were, day to day matters, behind it lies a claim
by the Government of Spain which they claimwe dispute thisis
backed by United Nations resolutions for sovereignty over the
Rock. It is for single sovereignty. That is the purpose of the
negotiations, to try and resolve this claim and this dispute.
I am not going, with great respect to you, to anticipate the outcome
of the negotiations because the simple truth is I do not know
the outcome of the negotiations, if I did I would tell you.
8. There will come a time when you will have
a clear idea of whether or not there is any serious prospect of
(Mr Straw) Of course.
9. Are we coming near to that?
(Mr Straw) What we are coming near to is the timescale
which I initially set, it is not set in stone, let me say, but
it is on the record that I said we hoped to bring this stage of
the negotiations to a conclusion by the summer. I should make
clear, also, as again colleagues here will remember, that in the
particular circumstances in which the Government of Gibraltar
felt unable to take part directly in these negotiations (I feel
that we made it entirely safe for them to do so, they felt that
it was not) in those circumstances this simply would, in any event,
be the first stage of a negotiation with a joint declaration which
will then be the subject of further and more detailed negotiations
outside the Brussels process on a tripartite basis to provide
further detail, further flesh on the basic structure that we had
created in that joint declaration and then further down the track
once clear detail was apparent its admission to a referendum.
10. The target is to reach a joint declaration
by the summer. Is it on the basis of what you have seen so far
realistic that in Julywhich presumably is called the summer
pretty widelyyou will have an agreement by then or will
know whether or not an agreement will be reached?
(Mr Straw) I am sorry to repeat myself. The discussions
continue. There will be a further discussion next week again.
If I knew the outcome of negotiations before they took place,
as I said, there would not be a need for negotiations. The history
of negotiations, not only inter-governmental but all sorts of
negotiations, which many colleagues here will have been involved
in, is that you do not know whether negotiations are going to
conclude satisfactorily until you reach the end game.
11. Welcome, Foreign Secretary. I was just interested
by a point you made a few moments ago about the country which
has the Presidency of the European Union only being able to focus
on Presidency issues. I was wondering if you could comment whether
you think Spain will be able to devote more time and eventually
conclude talks at the end of the Presidency?
(Mr Straw) Sorry. They have been able to devote a
great deal of time generally to the issue of Gibraltar. I am just
saying that in terms of the meeting of the European Council and
functional councils, because it is the Spanish ministers who are
in the Chair and Spanish officials who are supporting them, it
is not possible within those meetings for there then to be separate
bilaterals. Whereas if there was a negotiation between the United
Kingdom and one of another 13 countries who do not have the Presidency,
it would be very easy for us to extract ourselves while, say,
Luxembourg and Brussels, have a bilateral for a couple of hours
while one of our officials is, as it were, minding the shop in
the room but that is not possible for the country which has the
Presidency. That is a very discrete point.
12. That is helpful. Can I just return you to
the issue of sovereignty and put the question to you the other
way round, which I hope is directly your responsibility and that
is this. Is there any prospect of you, as the Foreign Secretary,
being able to sign up to an agreement on joint sovereignty in
which Spain does not give up its own claim to full sovereignty?
Can you sign up to that?
(Mr Straw) If full sovereignty remained in dispute
it would obviously be a logical impossibility to sign up to an
agreement on joint sovereignty at the same time. I do not know
what word would exist to accommodate those two positions. It is
well known that joint sovereignty is one of the issues under discussion.
It has always been, as it were, there ever since the previous
Conservative Government in 1984 agreed that sovereignty should
be one of the matters under discussion. It is the circumstances
in which there could be an accord around joint sovereignty and
so on which is the matter under discussion at the moment.
13. I do not fully follow that.
(Mr Straw) I thought it was pretty clear.
14. I guess that was intended.
(Mr Straw) No, no, no.
15. Can I move you on.
(Mr Straw) I remember, Mr Pope, that you are one of
my voters, so you are directly one of my employers so I have an
even higher imperative on making things clear to you than to anybody
Mr Pope: God help the others.
Chairman: Try again, Mr Pope.
16. I will move on to the issue of the military
base. You say that joint sovereignty is something which has been
under discussion and obviously I think we knew that. Is the joint
sovereignty of the base an option and is that a real sticking
point for the UK Government?
(Mr Straw) If there were joint sovereignty it would
obviously apply to the whole territory of Gibraltar.
17. It would not necessarily, would it?
(Mr Straw) If you are asking me would this become
a British/Spanish base, the answer to that is no and that is not
in prospect. Part of the aim of the negotiations is to ensure
that it remains a British base.
18. So it would effectively be excluded in pretty
much the same way as our bases are in Cyprus?
(Mr Straw) This then gets us into a rather rarefied
discussion about the nature of sovereignty. It does not remotely
follow that because there is sovereignty by a nation, or nations,
over a territory that one or other of those nations then has complete
and exclusive control over land and activities in part of that
territory. That never has happened and never will.
Sir John Stanley
19. Foreign Secretary, I have the transcript
of the part of the Today programme of 20 May 2002 which
reads as follows: "James Naughtie: If you got what you wanteda
deal on sovereignty with Spain in the negotiations, and you put
it to the people of Gibraltar and the people of Gibraltar said
"No", would the deal that we are talking about now then
be off the table?"
(Mr Straw) Yes.