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UK minister says Gibraltar dispute ‘could cloud bilateral relationship with Spain’

Friday, September 6th 2013 - 00:26 UTC
Full article 7 comments
“It’s important that no one misunderstands the seriousness of our commitment to Gibraltar”, said UK Europe minister Lidington (Pic EPA) “It’s important that no one misunderstands the seriousness of our commitment to Gibraltar”, said UK Europe minister Lidington (Pic EPA)

Britain’s relationship with Spain could be damaged by the ongoing dispute over Gibraltar, Europe Minister David Lidington warned. Lidington told the Financial Times there was a danger the row would overshadow all other parts of the Anglo-Spanish relationship. “There is clearly a risk that this will cloud the bilateral relationship,” he said.

“I think it would be a tragedy were that to be put at risk but I think it’s important that no one misunderstands the seriousness of our commitment to Gibraltar and to the democratic right of the people of Gibraltar to remain British.”

While British officials have voiced such concerns in private, Lidington is the first UK minister to admit publicly how serious the long-term consequences of the row are.

The comments were published a day after Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo told the Spanish parliament that Spain wanted to maintain its friendship and “privileged relations” with the UK.

“That friendship is only possible if we resort to dialogue, but at the same time clearly and firmly defend our interests” García-Margallo said. “The UK does it, and I hope Spain will do so too.”

Outside of the public eye, diplomatic efforts continued in a bid to establish a framework for dialogue. It follows a number of public interventions by Spanish and British ministers this week on the issue of Gibraltar.

On Monday British Foreign Secretary William Hague made a lengthy statement to the House of Commons setting out the UK’s commitment to the people of Gibraltar, while underscoring Britain and Gibraltar’s willingness to engage in ‘ad hoc’ dialogue with Spain. That same night, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg discussed Gibraltar with his Spanish counterpart, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

“He reiterated the United Kingdom and Gibraltar’s commitment to ‘ad hoc’ dialogue and confirmed that we were keen to discuss details of how we can take this forward,” said a spokesman Mr Clegg.

On Tuesday morning, just hours before García-Margallo’s intervention in Madrid, Hague took questions from MPs in the House of Commons. Once again, the message was one of robust support for Gibraltar and openness to dialogue.

The issue could gain momentum in the coming days as world leaders including UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy are in St Petersburg attending the G20 summit meeting.

Several sources agreed that, given the prominence of the Gibraltar issue in recent weeks, it was “fairly likely” that the two men would discuss the matter on the margins of the G-20 meeting.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Conqueror

    “Could”? The correct word is “has”. Tired of bumptious, bankrupt latino places trying to STEAL our territories, damage OUR citizens and take unjustified pops at us. We all know about argieland. Useless incompetence. Desperately looking for credibility it will never have. And now Spain is trying the same thing. Haven't they noticed how well argieland got on....NOT! The argies pushed and pushed and pushed until they got a war. That they were never going to win. Is Spain going to go down the same line? Documents in its own national archive show that it has NO claim. No claim to the territory, no claim to the waters, no claim to the airspace, no right to inhibit the border, no right to fish, no right to take executive action in BGTW, no right to put Gibraltar matters before Spanish courts, no “right” to intrude into BGTW. Given that Spain is such crap at handling its own affairs and territory, interfering with somewhere that is so much better governed doesn't make a lot of sense. Listen up, Gibraltar, do what the Falklands have done. Make the whole situation clear. Get rid of the myths. Instead of the International Court of Justice, try taking Spain to the International Criminal Court. Criminally fishing in Gibraltar waters, criminally restricting access, criminally impeding imports, criminal incursions into BGTW by Spanish state vessels. Meanwhile, block everything Spain wants to do, everywhere.

    Sep 06th, 2013 - 04:12 am 0
  • GeoffWard2

    '... Meanwhile, block everything Spain wants to do, everywhere.'

    I think that this will happen, quietly and unspoken - the British are so very good at this.
    The IMF, the Milan Olympic bid, Spanish fishing off the Dungeness beaches, any activity critical to Spain's survival;
    all will be made more difficult, pressed where things might previously have been let pass.
    And most definitely, more military materiel will 'drop in' to the Rock on a more frequent basis.

    This will be a long-term, totally unambiguous message,
    and it will take unambiguous acts of contrition by Spain to return to a previous pacific state.

    If the UK are willing to do this with TFI, some 10,000 miles away, how much easier is it with the Rock being just 1,000 away.

    Sep 06th, 2013 - 08:43 am 0
  • Gonzo22

    Apparently, Spaniards don't give a toss about it.

    Sep 06th, 2013 - 09:23 am 0
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