Debate about Gibraltar is mired in the past
SIR – The King of Spain’s recent comments on Gibraltar were wholly warranted. He demanded a solution acceptable to everyone. Spain obviously has an interest in Gibraltar, where thousands of its citizens work and which is firmly attached to the Iberian peninsula.
Gibraltar was captured by the British in 1704 in a war of aggression that began with Britain and the Holy Roman Emperor attempting to impose on Spain a monarch of their choice. Felipe V was not only the closest possible heir, but had been named by the last Habsburg king (Carlos II) as his successor, and was recognised by the Pope. What right did Britain have to decide who should rule in Spain?
Much is made of the Treaty of Utrecht, by which the Spanish crown handed over Gibraltar, but which gave Spain first refusal should Britain decide to relinquish possession. As Gibraltar is outside the EU customs union, there will have to be negotiations during Brexit. Gibraltar imports £1.1billion of goods from Spain and exports £165million. This is clearly a matter of legitimate Spanish interest.
It should also not be forgotten that, in the Treaty of Utrecht, Britain promised not to allow “Jews or Moors” to settle in the city – an undertaking that is now happily ignored. Article XII gave Britain a contract to supply slaves to Spanish colonies for 30 years, which is shameful to both parties today.
While the provisions of the treaty regarding Gibraltar may be considered the basis of Britain’s sovereignty, it is not a sacred text. Indeed, one might consider Britain’s possession as the anachronistic legacy of an imperial past, when taking the territories of other states was the international norm.
The rights of the citizens of Gibraltar must be protected, but its status remains a matter that can only be determined by the governments of Britain and Spain together, as King Felipe said.
Guy Stair Sainty
Peninsula of the apes: a Barbary macaque dozes at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar