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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 20:23 GMT
Clouds gather over Gibraltar
Gibraltar skyline
Gibraltar residents wish to remain British
Justin Webb

It is not unusual to see a cloud over the Rock of Gibraltar.

The warm air blowing across the Mediterranean, surprised by this sudden jagged mountain, tends to rise and deposit a wet mist on its top.

But this winter the clouds are metaphorical as well as literal.

Our views simply aren't being taken into account

Wayne Warwick

There is a sense of gloom in Gibraltar - gloom caused by the perceived willingness of the British Government to ignore the views of the people who live here and who regard themselves as British to the core.

The talk of betrayal follows the news that Britain and Spain are to talk again about the future status of Gibraltar.

Ever since 1704 when Britain seized the Rock the Spanish have wanted it back.

Until now the British have simply said no.

But Tony Blair - who is known to be close to the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar - seems to want to do a deal with Spain.

Ministers say there is no question of doing anything that risks Gibraltar's status or livelihood, but the locals are deeply suspicious.

British patriots

Wayne and Sandra Warwick are typical Gibraltarians.

He was born on the Rock, she came here from Britain. They want their children to grow up British.

Wayne says British ministers are dealing with Spain for their own convenience to make the EU run more smoothly.

"We are being betrayed," he tells me. "Our views simply aren't being taken into account." Sandra agrees. "If I wanted to live in Spain, I would have gone there," she says.

"I've nothing against the Spanish but I want to live under British rule."

Spanish border queue
Border queues grow when relations with Spain sour
It is a view you hear repeated again and again. Usually in the bluntest of terms. Gibraltarians feel, rightly or wrongly, that the latest talks - due to begin later this month - is a cosy affair set up by Madrid and London but intended to exclude the voice of the people who inhabit the rock.

Gibraltar's chief minister Peter Caruana puts it more diplomatically.

"We do not believe Mr Blair would do anything to damage Gibraltar's interests," Mr Caruana tells me." But we are worried that the recent statements from the British side have been misinterpreted in Spain.

"What we don't want is for the Spanish to be disappointed and for there to be a backlash that damages Gibraltar."

Border trouble

He knows only too well how vulnerable Gibraltar can be. The Rock's only access to land is through Spain and the Spanish border police can control the flow in and out of the colony.

In good times the flow is reasonably speedy - delays of about 25 minutes during peak hours - but when tensions are high the queues get much longer as the Spanish insist on going through every piece of luggage carried in either direction.

During previous difficult times it was not unusual for people to have to wait several hours.

So the mood in Gibraltar is sour. There is anger at the continued Spanish claim for the rock, anger at the British Government for entertaining that claim, and fear about what the future might hold.

At the moment it is highly unlikely that the Gibraltar government will turn up for the meeting with Spain and Britain arranged for later this month.

So although there are to be talks, there does not seem to be much listening on the agenda.

See also:

29 Oct 01 | Europe
'Deadline set' for Gibraltar deal
14 Sep 00 | Europe
Gibraltar allows sub repairs
18 Aug 00 | Europe
Gibraltar: A rocky road
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