Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

ANNEX 1(h)

Letter from Hon Peter Caruana QC, Chief Minister, Gibraltar, to Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 26 October 2001

  Thank you for your letter dated 23 October 2001.

  In the paper that I sent to John MacGregor on 16 October, I asked that a letter from you should not issue until it was clear that its contents would "do the trick". I said this in order to avoid the well documentated pitfalls of such a course of action in two previous unsuccessful attempts to secure our participation. I therefore very much regret that my advice should not have been heeded in this procedural respect.

  There is absolutely no prospect of our participation in talks on the basis of your letter, which I am bound to say, offers terms that are considerably less attractive than those proposed by the previous Tory Government and later by Robin Cook, and which we rejected.

  Your letter fails to take account of all the correspondence between HMG and GOG since 1996 and also my public statements. I can understand that you should not be personally aware of all of this—but I know that your officials are aware. The terms of your letter have therefore come as a great disappointment to us.

  Your letter delivers neither of our fundamental requirements, ie separate voice and the assurance of no agreement on any issue affecting Gibraltar without our agreement.

  Having our own voice is not just a question of a passing reference to those words in a letter. It requires the resulting process to be demonstrably structured and conducted in a manner that reflects it. Your letter does not achieve this. No attempt whatsoever is made to deliver the second point (no agreements without our agreement).

  Indeed much of what your letter does say is unacceptable to us as the basis for any process of dialogue in which we would wish to take part. Details of these aspects will be fed through separately to officials.

  You may not be aware that your letter does no more than describe the Brussels Process in 1985 when Gibraltar last participated in it. I had thought it inconceivable that anyone in the FCO would have thought that there was any prospect whatsoever of securing our participation on that basis. I can only assume that you have not been fully briefed on the recent history of these issues.

  There is no prospect of procuring our participation except through a detailed, specific and overt accommodation of our very well known and publicised needs. These are reflected in the paper and suggested draft letter that we sent on 16 October. If stylistic issues arise from these drafts they can, of course, be resolved.

  It has been suggested to me that it is not appropriate for me to purport to dictate the terms of your letters. I do of course readily accept that. By the same token, I am sure that you will understand that I cannot allow that to be used to water down the substance of our needs. Since that view has been expressed to me, and I would not wish to appear impertinent, I suggest that we proceed by way of Memorandum of Understanding and not a letter from you. My papers of 16 October can form the basis of such an MOU.

  Of course, it may be that you are unwilling (for reasons of your own) or unable (for reasons of Spain's position) to accommodate our needs in substance or in the manner that we seek. If that is the case I would ask that that be plainly said. We should not deal with differences of substance as if they were mere drafting points.

  My Government has considered the terms of your letter in a meeting of all Ministers. The unanimous view is that it reveals a cavernous difference between the process described in your letter and the process in which we would be willing to participate. I would like you to know that I have had to persuade my colleagues even of the fact that there is indeed a real desire in London to bring about our participation.

  I do not know if you will be willing to meet our needs as we have articulated them. I had already alerted your officials to the fact that even if we obtain our terms, we shall need time to explain the position and our decision to participate to public opinion. We would need a full 14 days for this purpose, starting from the day on which we had agreed terms.

Peter Caruana

Chief Minister

26 October 2001

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