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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 00:24 GMT
Shared Gibraltar deal 'within months'
Demonstrators marching
Thousands of Gibraltarians protested against a deal
The people of Gibraltar will be presented with a plan for shared sovereignty between Britain and Spain within months, the BBC has learned.

Senior government sources have confirmed that talks are well advanced and the two countries are preparing to make a joint declaration on their plans for the colony.

The development comes as a direct rebuff to a mass protest on the Rock on Monday, which saw 25,000 of its 30,000 residents march against moves to change its status.

Gibraltarians will come under considerable pressure to accept the power-sharing deal in a referendum, with the threat of British support in the European Union being removed if they vote 'no'.

Pints of beer

It is claimed the colony's residents will see very few changes in their day to day life if they accept the proposals.

Under the deal:

  • Gibraltar would keep its right to a traditional 'British' way of life, with the same legal system, English as the official language and pints of beer
  • It would have more self-governance
  • There would be an end to border restrictions and other 'hassle' from Spain
But Gibraltar would lose its status as a British territory, with Spain having a much greater role.

Serious effect

Gibraltarians could be given the chance to vote on the plans soon after they are announced.

Peter Caruana
Caruana wants Gibraltar to stay British
But a 'no' vote is likely to bring an end to Britain's support in arguments about tax havens and borders.

That could have a serious effect on the colony's economy, which is dependent on tax laws and trading.

One minister said: "We have been spending years on this - next time it will be 'go and see the third secretary on Gibraltar affairs'."

'Self determination'

Speaking in Wales on Tuesday Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, said residents were determined to face-down attempts to offer Spain joint sovereignty.

He said: "We enjoy the right to self determination - that's the right to decide our own future, which we wish to exercise to chose to retain our British sovereignty and to retain our close constitutional links with the UK."

His cause has some supporters on the Labour back benches and from the Conservative Party.

It also remains to be seen how many British people will support the people of the colony in their fight to retain its British status.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Boycotts will not work anymore"
See also:

16 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Gibraltar attacks sovereignty plan
16 Mar 02 | Europe
EU summit agrees key reforms
11 Feb 02 | UK Politics
'Gibraltar wants to remain British'
05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Straw accused of Gibraltar betrayal
06 Feb 02 | England
Scramble for Rock votes
04 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Gibraltar talks 'still on course'
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