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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 01:34 GMT
Spain 'scuppered Gibraltar deal'
Residents demonstrate on Gibraltar
Residents are opposed to Spanish sovereignty
The Spanish Government scrapped a plan agreed with Britain to share sovereignty of Gibraltar, it has been reported.

A "brilliant, history-making deal" for the future of the Rock - including a Spanish commitment not to seek full sovereignty - had been agreed by London and Madrid in April, according to former Europe Minister Peter Hain.

But by the time he returned from talks in the Spanish capital, the country's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had intervened to block it, the Western Mail newspaper claims.

Mr Hain, now Welsh Secretary, told the Cardiff-based paper that the agreement had been forged after six months of difficult talks.

'Fast one'

The Western Mail quotes a Foreign Office source as saying that Spain then backed away from a commitment to put the deal to the people of Gibraltar in a referendum.

At that time there was a brilliant history-making deal for Gibraltar, Britain and Spain in prospect

Peter Hain
The source reportedly claimed that the basic British position was accepted by Mr Hain's Spanish counterpart, Ramon de Miguel, "but it seems that afterwards they wanted to push further, something that was completely unacceptable to us".

The source said: "They thought they could pull a fast one on us, but it didn't work.

"We'd been prepared to take risks, but in the end they bottled it."

Military base

According to the newspaper Foreign Secretary Jack Straw received a call from the Spanish Government to say that the deal was off while Mr Hain was returning to the UK.

The deal is said to have allowed joint sovereignty, but with British control of Gibraltar's military base.

The residents of the Rock would have been asked to vote on whether to accept the deal.

A financial package from the EU was included, along with plans to improve the colony's government and institutions.

But Madrid is said to have reversed its position - demanding shared control of the military base, full sovereignty in the future and no official status for any poll.

The Foreign Office has officially declined to comment on the claims.

But Mr Hain did tell the newspaper that, although he could not say anything about what were "detailed private negotiations", in April "there was a brilliant history-making deal for Gibraltar, Britain and Spain in prospect".

Poll

The British Government continues to insist that a solution to the Gibraltar issue must be found.

But it has confirmed that no talks are currently planned.

In November the Rock's residents voted almost unanimously against shared sovereignty in a referendum.

At the time both London and Madrid said the vote would not halt discussions on the issue.


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03 Mar 99 | Politics
08 Nov 02 | Europe
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