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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 08:31 GMT
What next for Gibraltar?
The people of Gibraltar have voted overwhelmingly to reject any agreement to give Spain joint sovereignty over the British colony.
Almost 99% of voters said No to the question: "Do you approve of the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar?"
Although the vote has no formal status, the UK has previously said that no change in sovereignty will take place without the agreement of the people in a referendum.
Do you think the sovereignty of Gibraltar should be shared? Or should the debate on joint sovereignty now end?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Charles , Gibraltar
Hypocrisy at it's highest. The vast majority of Gibraltarian's are quite happy to work in Spain, buy exclusive properties in Spain, shop in Spain, preferentially speak Spanish, and before I forget, enjoy all the tax perks given to them by the British Government. Of course they don't want change ! They have the best of both worlds.
We all accept that Gibraltar is a sensitive area politically. However, both countries are in the EU, surely, we can accept the overwhelming vote of the residents for the time being?! 99% is pretty convincing!
Why are people always asked to vote again and again on a subject until the 'right' result is reached? Doesn't that totally undermine democracy? If they want to stay British let them!
Gibraltar is Spanish, plain and simple. Why should we get dragged into decades of international dispute in order to satisfy a small colonial minority? We did that in the Falklands and see where that eventually led to!
The time when Gibraltar was of any strategic interest to Britain disappeared with the empire many years ago...
Time to let go.
This has nothing to do with history or rights. It has to do with Britain wanting to form a power bloc with Spain in the EU. When will Spain give back the parts of Morocco or fellow EU member Portugal?
Ian Torrilla, Gibraltar
So they don't want to share sovereignty? It will have to be a straight handover to Spain, then. Meanwhile, how about paying taxes as Britons?
Gibraltar is British in the same way as Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Pierre et Miquelon are French. Its people wish to remain British and the best solution is to integrate the colony with the UK in the same way as Ceuta and Melilla - in Morocco - are part of Spain. The government should tell Franco's successors in Madrid to mind their own business.
What a weak leader we have. Tony wants to give Gibraltar away to ease relations with Spain. I don't see the Spanish Government saying "Hey, let's drop this whole issue of Gibraltarian sovereignty, so that we can have better relations with Britain."
The bottom line for me is the right to self determination by the people of Gibraltar. They have shown by a referendum that they do not wish to be Spanish or have joint rule: this should be the end of the story. If the British government do not see this, then best they ask themselves on Remembrance Sunday why did so many brave young men die fighting to keep the Falklands British. For it is exactly the same situation.
The UK Government has always maintained that Gibraltar will have the final say on any deal. It is now very clear that there is no future in discussions over joint sovereignty. Stop the talks now! Gibraltar is British and the UK Government should discuss Gibraltar's future with the Rock, and the Rock alone.
I lived for nearly 25 years in Spain and was privileged to live through the process of transition to democracy, something that made a deep impression on me. Unfortunately, in the first years living there, the Spanish Government decided to close the border with Gibraltar and thereby set back by many years the process of winning over the hearts and minds of the Gibraltarians.
I have been a victim of the petty-mindedness of the Spanish authorities when the border was reopened and it took hours to get over the border. It is not at all surprising that virtually all the Gibraltarians have now voted against joint sovereignty with Spain.
Little has been done to persuade the Gibraltarians that they would enjoy greater prosperity under a different arrangement which is what may begin to change people's minds.
Leigh, Coventry, England
Gibraltar is British and Britain should look after the interests of Gibraltar against the bullying of Spain. Blair wants to have joint membership to ease relations with Spain - why doesn't he instead enlist the aid of the EU to put pressure on Spain to stop being a bully-boy? If one gives in to bullying then more will follow! Let's put a stop to it now! The Spanish won't even consider giving up Ceuta or Melilla and the principle is exactly the same!
If I were a Gibraltarian, I would jump at the chance of becoming part of Spain. Better outlook on life, food, public infrastructure, hospitals, education etc.
Listen to the will of the people. It's amazing how governments talk about democracy, except when it doesn't suit their purposes.
As for the comments from a couple of US people: perhaps you should give back areas like Guantanamo Bay, Guam, American Samoa, etc.
Robert Stewart, Bermuda
Democracy is apparently dead in Europe. Both the British and Spanish governments have said the referendum has no bearing on the discussions. The old saying, "if voting actually achieved anything, it would be outlawed" has unfortunately been confirmed in Gibraltar.
Spain and her defenders never talk in the same vein of Ceuta, Melilla, or the Canary Islands. Nor do they speak with shame of the 13 years they as a post Franco democracy tried to exclude the Gibraltarians from their consideration by closing the frontier. Nor do they remember the help Britain gave them in the Napoleonic Peninsular wars. All Aznar chooses to remember on their behalf is the propaganda of Franco text books in which the British presence in Gibraltar was described as a "dagger in the spine of Spain". There are none so deaf who wish not to hear.
It's disgusting that the British government is even considering this total sell-out of Gibraltar. Just like the fiercely loyal people of Northern Ireland, they will be sold out.
Do not forget that Spain is a multi-national state with a high degree of devolved power to the regions. Why not make English another language of Spain (along with Basque, Catalan, Gallego). The Basque region has its own tax system. The Catalans and Basques have their own police force. Why can't Gibraltar be the 18th autonomous region of Spain?
If I were Spanish, I wouldn't fret if the people of Gibraltar vote to retain British ties; in the spirit of the EU more votes will be forced until they get the "right" result.
Simon Rivers, UK
Spain sent war ships (of sorts) to Perejil, a piece of rock the size of a football pitch 200 metres of the Moroccan Coast because she would not give up sovereignty. Why then does she expect UK to hand over Gibraltar against the wishes of the local populus? Then of course there is Cueta and Melilla, more of Morocco under Spanish sovereignty. If you talk to the Spanish about Gibraltar since the Perejil incident and they tend not to enter into a conversation. I wonder why?
Gibraltar belongs to Spain in the same manner that Hong Kong belongs to China, Goa to India. Britain should have turned over sovereignty to Spain. Gibraltar being a part of Britain in the 21st century is ridiculous.
You cannot draw parallel with Hong Kong or Northern Ireland. Hong Kong was leased to the British, and handed back when the lease ran out. Northern Ireland has a significant number (although a minority) who want to transfer to Eire. Gibraltar (and the Falklands, for that matter) have a near-total majority who strongly wish to remain British. Follow the wishes of the population!
That our government would sell its own people out for cheap and transitory political gain is totally abhorrent. The wonderful and loyal people of Gibraltar deserve the support of every Briton in their right to decide their own destiny.
Modern Spain was created by the unification of the houses of Aragon and Castille in 1516, Gibraltar was ceded in 1713 which means that Gibraltar has been British 92 years longer than it has been Spanish.
UK people have a rosy idealised image of Gibraltar that is far from the truth. Joint sovereignty is necessary to reduce crime in a sensitive area of Europe's frontier.
Chris B, England
Britain, your empire is gone. Why hang on to token parcels? Give Gibraltar to Spain.
In an effort to be impartial I have just put this question to several friends, none of them is Gibraltarian, British or Spanish. One, interestingly, is an Argentinean living in Ireland! They all came back to me with the same answer - the democratic will of the people of Gibraltar must be adhered to. I agree.
I had the pleasure of visiting Gibraltar last month. Why is it that the only place in Great(er) Britain that seems to be proud to be British is Gibraltar? Union Flags everywhere. They are British and wish to remain so. End of story. Best of British luck to Gibraltarians today and thanks for showing Blair and Co. what real democracy and self determination means. Not in Afghanistan or Iraq but right here at home.
Alex of Scotland: Relations with Spain would be very much improved if the Spanish desisted from their bully-boy attitude towards the Gibraltarians, a people who have consistently and overwhelmingly on two occasions rejected Spanish hegemonious ambitions.
First and foremost, the inhabitants should decide who they want to be ruled by, not what London, Madrid or Brussels may decide. Secondly, if Tony Blair, or any other British leader wants to be a force in world affairs, then without Gibraltar, staging military operations in remote places becomes yet more difficult. Could the Falklands have been recaptured without the major staging base? Can we move large amounts of equipment around the globe or maintain a high seas fleet without this important strategic base? Even though part of the EU & NATO, allies can prevent others from usage of assets within their own countries - something that Gibraltar would surely become, if Sovereignty is shared.
Although I support the people of Gibraltar doing whatever they want, I do not understand the following anomaly: that is, they want to keep "British sovereignty" on the one hand, but want to make their own decisions on the other.
If the Gibraltarians want to remain under the sovereignty of the UK, then accepting unpopular decisions that come about because of that sovereignty is a price you have to pay. If they want to determine their own futures, then Gibraltarian sovereignty, and not "British sovereignty", would be the logical thing for the people to campaign for.
Simon Creeber, UK
Of course the answer should be no! At least until Spain's status at Ceuta is determined.
Spain has for a long time argued that it has a rightful claim to Gibraltar, but in reality they have a stronger historical claim to Portugal or the Netherlands. I think it's time that Spain faced facts and listened to the democratic choice of the people of Gibraltar.
Mike, Newcastle, UK
Does it matter? The EU controls both Spain and the UK so what's the point in even asking the question? Within a few years neither Spain, the UK or Gibraltar will exist except as a small part of the USE.
The only people who should be able to define the sovereignty of a land are those that live in it. No external government should have a say, London and Madrid should keep quiet and listen to the Gibraltarians. These arguments apply to not just Gibraltar, but other disputed territories: Tibet, Palestine, Kashmir and Northern Ireland to name but a few.
Simple answer "NO". Today is a proud day to be Gibraltarian. Many of us living in the UK have already voted. Distance does not matter to us and unity will forever be strong and this will clearly be reinforced with today's results. Mr Blair why mess around with peoples futures, what have we done to you? Is this your idea of a democratic world?
This government took the very close vote of the Scottish people and gave them their own parliament. What right do they have in ignoring the vote of the people of Gibraltar ? None.
D. Bourne, United Kingdom
Once again we see the Government failing to listen to the people of our colonies. They voted massively to retain British sovereignty some while ago. The Gibraltarians want to remain British, the Falkland Islanders want to remain British, but the government is still trying to do deals with the Spanish and Argentines respectively. LISTEN to your people Tony!
Paul, childish pride. Gibraltar being British is the equivalent of Spain holding Anglesey. Of course it's a thorn in their side.
The fact of the matter is that the EU is dominated by France and Germany and we need all the allies that we can get. One of the prices of forming those alliances will be the loss of Gibraltar.
Martin, UK, says that the EU is dominated by France and Germany, and that we need all the allies we can get - even if it means selling out our own people. If this is the brave new world of the EU, then I am sure I'm not alone in wanting nothing to do with it!
Lets see here, Spain has an area of 194,746 square miles, Gibraltar has about 2.5 sq miles. I can really see that adding those extra 2.5 is going to transform the lives of the Spanish people. The bottom line as I see it: Spain signed Gibraltar to the British 300 years ago. Spain has no sovereignty rights as long as the British stay; the Gibraltarians do not want sovereignty shared (as today's vote will prove). It strikes me the only reason the Spanish want Gibraltar is childish pride. Of course the Spanish have a different view over Ceuta, Melilla and the Basque country. It all looks a bit one sided and pointless to me.
07 Nov 02 | Europe
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