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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 21:49 GMT
'No deal on Gibraltar'
Gibraltar
Storm clouds are gathering over Gibraltar
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has rejected claims that Britain and Spain have struck a secret deal to share the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

Mr Straw told the House of Commons discussions were continuing over the Rock's future status and he hoped the issue would be resolved within the next few months.


The people of Gibraltar have shown great loyalty to the crown and to the UK and we at least owe them openness and loyalty in return

Michael Ancram, shadow foreign secretary
The denial follows a report in Spain's El Pais newspaper, quoting an unnamed diplomatic source as saying an agreement on shared sovereignty would help resolve the long-running row over Gibraltar which has soured relations between the two countries.

The Tories have accused Labour of preparing to betray the people of Gibraltar in order to improve Britain's standing in Europe.

'Political nonsense'

Gibraltar remains vehemently opposed to shared sovereignty.

"There is no prospect of Gibraltarians accepting any degree of Spanish sovereignty nor any role for Spain over the affairs of Gibraltar," the Gibraltar government said in a statement.

It said shared sovereignty was democratically unacceptable to Gibraltar and "a political and legal nonsense".

It also rejected suggestions that even if Gibraltarians rejected any joint Spanish-British proposals, any future negotiations would resume on the basis of those plans.

Prosperity

Mr Straw said he still hoped to reach a deal with his Spanish counterpart Josep Pique by the middle of this year.

But he stressed that any proposals affecting sovereignty would be put to the 30,000 Gibraltarians in a referendum and have to be backed by parliament.

"The United Kingdom's objective is a secure, stable and prosperous Gibraltar enjoying greater self-government and the full benefits of normal coexistence with the wider region," Mr Straw said.

'Sell-out'

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said: "I'm less than reassured and less than convinced that there is not a deal being done behind closed doors to share sovereignty.

"The whole process within which you are engaged is beginning to smell to high heaven and the smell is of stitch up and of sell out.

"The people of Gibraltar have shown great loyalty to the crown and to the UK and we at least owe them openness and loyalty in return."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"The final outcome of discussions... will be put to the people of Gibraltar in a secret ballot"
Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram
"Its being done behind closed doors"
See also:

12 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Officials dismiss Gibraltar 'deal'
28 Nov 01 | UK Politics
'No boycott' on Gibraltar
21 Nov 01 | Media reports
Hard times ahead for the Rock
20 Nov 01 | Europe
Head to Head: Gibraltar's future
20 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Gibraltar eyes uncertain future
20 Nov 01 | Europe
Q&A: Where now for Gibraltar?
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