The British Government reaffirmed its double-lock sovereignty commitment to Gibraltar on two separate occasions during a ‘right of reply’ to Spain’s intervention at the UN Fourth Committee in New York on Tuesday.
Speaking at the end of the session, ambassador Peter Wilson, the UK’s deputy permanent representative at the UN, also said the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue remained “ the most credible, constructive and practical means” of strengthening relations between the UK, Spain and Gibraltar.
And he insisted that Gibraltar must participate “in its own right” in any process of dialogue and that this was “non negotiable”.
Mr Wilson was responding to a speech by Spanish ambassador Román Oyarzun Marchesi, Spain’s permanent representative at the UN, who had earlier outlined a formal proposal to the UK for dialogue on joint sovereignty.
The response left no doubt that the UK and Spain are poles apart in their respective positions on Gibraltar, making a consensus decision at this year’s UN session increasingly unlikely.
Whereas Spain is intent on pushing for bilateral talks and joint sovereignty, Britain remains steadfast in its double-lock commitment that it will never change or discuss Gibraltar’s sovereignty against the wishes of the Gibraltarians.
Mr Wilson underscored that point not just once but twice during his intervention, adding that Gibraltarians enjoyed the right of self-determination and a modern, mature relationship with the UK.
“The Government of the United Kingdom restates its longstanding commitment to the people of Gibraltar that it will not enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their freely and democratically expressed wishes,” he said.
“The United Kingdom also confirms that it will not enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.”
“The United Kingdom reaffirms its commitment to safeguard Gibraltar, its people and its economy.”
A few minutes later, the British ambassador underlined the same point again as he told the UN that Britain was committed to “fully involving” Gibraltar in the process of leaving the EU.
That will have rankled with Spain, which had sought the support of EU countries to keep Gibraltar outside the Brexit negotiations.
“The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union does not change our unwavering commitment to respecting Gibraltar’s wishes on sovereignty,” Mr Wilson told the Fourth Committee.
“As I have already said, we will not enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.”
“Nor will the United Kingdom enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.”
Britain and Gibraltar, he added, remain “strongly committed” to trilateral dialogue.
“The United Kingdom regrets the fact that the government of Spain withdrew formally from those talks in 2012,” Mr Wilson said.
“Under the 2006 constitution, Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar has competence for all policy areas except for External Relations, Defence and Internal Security, which are reserved by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom.”
“Gibraltar’s active participation, in its own right, in any dialogue process is therefore non-negotiable.”