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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 20:44 GMT
Gibraltar vote 'ignored by ministers'
The Rock of Gibraltar
Political lobbying will continue, says chief minister
The UK Government's position over Gibraltar has not changed despite a referendum three months ago which rejected joint sovereignty with Spain, it has emerged.

The territory's chief minister Peter Caruana said he had strong evidence that the Foreign Office had paid no attention to the people's vote.

At the time of the referendum he warned that both governments would ignore the voice of the people "at their peril".

The British government has not in any degree resiled post-referendum from the position articulated by Jack Straw in the House of Commons on 12 July

Peter Caruana, Gibraltar's chief minister
In London on Wednesday, Mr Caruana warned that Gibraltar's inhabitants would continue their political lobbying to resolve the issue.

He said he had strong evidence that the Foreign Office had paid no attention to the result.

A recent letter from the department to one resident on the Rock stated that the government's current position was still that it was in "broad agreement" with Spain on the issue of joint sovereignty with Spain.

Standing firm

Mr Caruana said: "The British government has not in any degree resiled post-referendum from the position articulated by Jack Straw in the House of Commons on 12 July.

"It's still their view that they should continue to negotiate with Spain on the principle of joint sovereignty regardless of the 7 November referendum."

Peter Caruana
Peter Caruana: Rejects joint sovereignty
Both London and Madrid refused to recognise the referendum, which was organised by the Gibraltar government and dismissed it variously as "eccentric", "meaningless", an "irrelevance" and even illegal.

Responding to Mr Caruana's claims, the Foreign Office insisted it had taken on board last year's result.

An official said: "A number of issues remain unresolved.

"We still stand by our position that dialogue is the only realistic way forward."

'Slanderous' allegations

Earlier, Mr Caruana told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Tony Blair and his Spanish counterpart Jose-Maria Aznar should abandon talks over the future of the rock.

Mr Caruana said he was angry over "unsubstantiated allegations" about Gibraltar, particularly from the Spanish.

He said these had appeared to increase since the referendum and showed how entrenched the political situation had become, making him pessimistic about the way forward.

The allegations include claims about the VAT-free territory's financial practices and its role in the Prestige oil tanker disaster last year.

The chief minister said he "deeply regretted and condemned" the policy of "slander and denigration" of Gibraltar's people and institutions.

He said the ill-fated Prestige was not heading for Gibraltar and even if it had been, the colony would not have been liable for clean-up, salvage and other costs.

"It's just systematic vitriol designed to bring us into disrepute ... and generate enmity between the people of Gibraltar and the people of Spain," he said.

However, Mr Caruana insisted Gibraltarians would not give up without a fight.

He said: "We will continue our political lobbying and our own activities in relation to this issue until we are satisfied that this policy has been withdrawn."


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12 Feb 03 | Politics
03 Mar 99 | Politics
08 Nov 02 | Europe
08 Nov 02 | Politics
27 Nov 02 | Politics
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