Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1 (d)

Letter from Hon Peter Caruana QC, Chief Minister, Gibraltar, to Rt Hon Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 9 December 1998


  When we met in Blackpool earlier this year we discussed the Gibraltar Government's ("GOG") policy on dialogue with Spain. I assured you that it had not changed one iota from that set out in our 1996 election manifesto. I told you that I would write to you in the run-up to the forthcoming Brussels Agreement talks setting out the position in detail. I hope that you will find time to consider this letter (and its enclosures). It is important to GOG that you should be personally familiar with our position, the reasons for it and the attempts that we have made in the last two years to facilitate and enable our participation in the talks.

  I attach a copy of the page of our manifesto and of the separate election leatlet No 3, dealing with dialogue. What it all boils down to is that we are committed not to participate in talks unless the bilateral dimension is eliminated and is replaced by one that gives Gibraltar its own separate voice. I have marked the applicable bits of each document.

  In 1996, and again in 1997 and in order to enable us to participate, within the parameters of our maifesto commitment but without making it impossible for Spain, we suggested to HMG a formula as follows:

    (1)  A single composite British (given that both UK and Gibraltar are British) delegation comprising internally separate UK and Gibraltar representative parts, led by the Foreign Secretary with the Chief Minister as deputy leader.

    (2)  The Chief Minister and (where appropriate) other members of the Gibraltar part of the British delegation to be present thoughout all part of the talks.

    (3)  HMG should not agree, without the Chief Minister's prior specification endorsement to any new arrangements under the British Agreement on any matter affecting Gibraltar.

  This formula was intended to comply with our Manifesto commitments of having a "separate voice" without being a third delegation in so far as concerned Spain.

  The FCO were unable to agree acceptable terms for such a formula. I believe that they felt that the progress was being "mortgaged" to GOG who could then drop out. I never understood this argument because I repeatedly said that our "veto" over decisions would only apply while we were participating in the process.

  It is important to us that you should know why this point is so vital to us. We would not wish to legitimise, by our presence and participation in the process, decisions with which we did not agree and were taken over our heads. FCO was willing to give us the required comfort but only in respect of that year's talks. This was obviously unacceptable to us since it could have meant that we would be seen to have endorsed the process (after 10 year's absence) by attending that year with the "veto" comfort and then be exposed to imposition of decisions with which we did not agree at subsequent talks at which we were present, thereby embroiling us in such decisions. Hence the importance that the comfort should endure co-extensively in time with our participation in the process. If we absented ourselves, the agreement would no longer bind HMG.

  I enclose the last draft (of a letter by the Foreign Secretary to me) that we put to FCO for the talks in January 1997 (Conservative Government still in Office). The letter (dated 8 January 1997) that we actually got from David Davis was not acceptable. We did not attend.

  The next talks after those were in December 1997. I wrote to David Reddaway on 29 October 1997 setting out the position again. The letter dated 3 December 1997 that I got from Robin Cook was not acceptable. Again we did not attend. I wrote at some length to Robin Cook explaining GOG's position and why we had decided that we could not attend. I enclose copies of those letters which fully explain GOG's position and needs in this respect.

  Once again we find ourselves in the run-up to Brussels talks. Our position remains the same, and cannot change, not least because of our electoral commitments. We believe that the formula that we have offered is a reasonable one which attempts to save the requirements of Spain and Gibraltar in relation to the structure of dialogue. I hope that it will now be possible to bring about the circumstances that will enable us to participate this time around.

  Once again, as occurred in 1997, Matutes has made threats against Gibraltar in the run-up to Brussels talks. This plainly makes it no easier for us to participate since it looks as if we are doing so under duress and from a position of weakness. It calls into question the sincerity of Spanish statements to the effect that they want us to attend.

  If you think that there is mileage in pursuing, once again, the formula that we proposed in 1996 and 1997 do please let me know and I will immediately make available my officials to work with yours on the detail.

Peter Caruana

Chief Minister

9 December 1998

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