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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 22:14 GMT 23:14 UK
Gibraltar 'deal' sparks anger
Gibraltarians protest against shared sovereignty
Gibraltarians are overwhelmingly against a deal
There has been an angry reaction to the government's announcement that Britain is prepared to share sovereignty of Gibraltar with Spain.

Gibraltarians took to the streets in protest after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told MPs that London and Madrid had reached broad agreement on the colony's future.

There's more chance of hell freezing over than the people of Gibraltar ever agreeing

Peter Caruana, Gibraltar's First Minister

Although there was still no deal to put to the people of Gibraltar its chief minister, Peter Caruana, said any poll on shared sovereignty would be soundly defeated.

The Conservatives accused Mr Straw of trying to bully Gibraltarians into giving up their British citizenship.

And there was even opposition in Spain, which said it still wants complete sovereignty of the Rock - 300 years after it first became British.

'Betrayed'

In a statement condemning the foreign secretary's announcement the Gibraltar Government said: "Mr Straw has politically and openly conceded to Spain the principle of joint sovereignty.

"Mr Straw knows that there is no meaningful level of support in Gibraltar for joint sovereignty."

Gibraltar's First Minister Peter Caruana told the BBC: "I'm feeling like the whole of Gibraltar is feeling - let down, betrayed and frustrated.

"Mr Straw knows that there's more chance of hell freezing over than the people of Gibraltar ever agreeing to a dilution of British sovereignty."

Following Mr Straw's announcement Gibraltarians sounded car horns, blew whistles and beat pots and pans to make clear their opposition to a deal.

Although the 27,000 people on the Rock have a veto on any deal and are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining British, Mr Straw will try to persuade them that shared sovereignty would improve their lives.

Among the benefits would be an end to the border restrictions which guarantee lengthy delays for the many people who cross into Spain every day for their jobs.

'Damaging'

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Straw said Spain was still holding out for a deal under which Gibraltarians would eventually become Spanish citizens.


Gibraltar will not thrive while the dispute festers

Jack Straw
He assured the Commons he was not prepared to conclude a deal at any price.

But, he stressed, the status quo was damaging Gibraltar and Britain.

"It is damaging Gibraltar because Gibraltar will not thrive while the dispute festers and its people have to put up with everyday disruption.

"The dispute is also damaging to Britain's interests because we are trying to build a strategic alliance with Spain to help deliver the EU we both seek ... "

Confirming his backing for shared sovereignty, Mr Straw said: "Gibraltarians should retain the right to British nationality and gain in addition the right to Spanish nationality as well."

'Dishonourable'

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said Mr Straw had effectively admitted that joint sovereignty had already been agreed, despite the promise of a referendum.

"This is what we have feared has long been cooked up in the dishonourable talks - a shabby and dishonourable process," Mr Ancram said.

He accused ministers of adopting a "hectoring" tone in an attempt to bully the people of Gibraltar into giving up UK citizenship.

And he said Mr Straw had deliberately chosen to make a statement on the issue on a Friday, when the Commons was sparsely populated.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Chris Morris
"Most people in Gibraltar want to remain British"
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"No deal is better than a bad deal"
Chief Minister of Gibraltar Peter Caruana
"The people of Gibraltar will interpret this as a complete betrayal"

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See also:

10 Jul 02 | Europe
19 Jun 02 | Europe
13 Mar 00 | Europe
13 Mar 00 | Europe
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