As Brexit Looms, Troubled Seas Around Gibraltar Should Have Washington’s Attention

August 12, 2016

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From America’s first major overseas military intervention in 1801 against the Barbary States to today’s on-going military presence in the region, the United States has often relied on a tiny piece of the United Kingdom located in the Mediterranean Sea.

Gibraltar, commonly referred to simply as “the Rock,” is a rocky headland covering just over 2.7 square miles on the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It is strategically located at the western entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, where the strait between Europe and Africa spans a mere 7.7 nautical miles at its narrowest point.

After being captured from the Moors in 1462, Gibraltar was part of Spain until it was captured in 1704 by a joint Anglo-Dutch-Catalan force during the War of the Spanish Succession. The Rock was formally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht “…forever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.”

Since losing Gibraltar in 1704, the Spanish have sought to take it back. Examples abound through the last three centuries. They unsuccessfully laid siege to Gibraltar on three separate occasions in the 18th century and have since used a combination of military, diplomatic, economic, and plain harassing tactics in an attempt to get the Rock back. More recently, after the Gibraltarians approved a new constitution in 1969, Spain’s fascist dictator Francesco Franco closed the land border and blocked telecommunications between Spain and Gibraltar until the border was reopened in 1985.

Gibraltar is not a “colony” — a lie often peddled by Madrid. It is one of 14 British Overseas Territories around the world. Like all other British Overseas Territories (and unlike colonies)), Gibraltar has chosen to be self-governing while maintaining the British monarch as its head of state. Aside from defense and foreign policy, Gibraltar is self-supporting. As a British Overseas Territory the Rock’s inhabitants have the right of self-determination. In other words, at any time Gibraltar can decide to leave Great Britain.  In two recent referenda, Gibraltar’s 30,000 inhabitants, a large majority of whom are British citizens, have shown overwhelmingly that they do not want to be part of Spain.

In light of the recent Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, Spain is redoubling its efforts to regain control of the Rock. The day after the vote acting Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo quickly pounced, suggesting that the United Kingdom and Spain should agree to “joint sovereignty” over Gibraltar. The implications of this are more than political. There are security implications, especially for the United States. If the Rock becomes Spanish, or even put under joint sovereignty, the United States would not enjoy the same level of cooperation and use of Gibraltar as it has since 1801 under British control.

In 2002, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government came very close to agreeing to joint sovereignty with the Spanish over Gibraltar.  There was concern, however, about what this would mean for future use of Gibraltar by the U.S. military. With the rise of ISIL and a resurgent Russia — both of which demand more robust military operations in the Mediterranean littoral —  those concerns should be even more acute today.

Gibraltar remains the most accessible and available port for U.S. nuclear-powered submarines in the Mediterranean, due to burdensome security and administrative requirements for such visits in other NATO countries in the region. The mission and location of America’s nuclear-powered submarines is highly classified information. At Gibraltar, U.S. submarines can dock with little or no prior notice. Conversely, I have been told by senior British officials that U.S. submarines can dock at Spanish and other bases that NATO uses in Mediterranean only with prior notice, which requires sharing sensitive information about submarine operations, such as how many people are getting on and off the vessels, what is being removed and added to them, when it is leaving, and where it is going.

The Rock has other maritime advantages too. It stores a type of intermediate fuel oil required by some U.S. Navy ships that is not readily available in other ports in the region. Its deepwater port has provided a secure docking area as well as vast amounts of safe anchorage for U.S. warships. In 1990 and 1991, an estimated 193 U.S. Navy ships used Gibraltar’s waters in support of operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The topography and geographical location of Gibraltar makes intelligence gathering a core function there.

Throughout history many of America’s military operations in the region have relied on Gibraltar.

In 1818, during the Second Barbary War against the Regency of Algiers, another U.S. Navy task force was assembled at Gibraltar under the command of Commodore Stephen Decatur. In 1899, U.S. Admiral George Dewey stopped in Gibraltar to resupply his ships after his defeat of the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War. Obviously none of this would have been possible had the Rock been Spanish soil. In 1909, the Great White Fleet made its final stop in Gibraltar to resupply coal before heading back to the U.S. during its famous around-the-world trip

During World War I Gibraltar was a meeting point for many Allied convoys before crossing the Atlantic. In 1917 the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard joined British forces at Gibraltar and operated together as part of the so-called Gibraltar Barrage— an Anglo-American naval squadron tasked with keeping German submarines from passing from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic after the surrender of Austria and Turkey. Of course, Spain was neutral during the war, so under Spanish control it is likely that Gibraltar would not have been available.

During World War II, Gibraltar played an even more important role for the United States and United Kingdom. During the war, the Rock became an impregnable fortress: an airfield was constructed, the bay was filled with Allied ships, and at its peak 37,000 American and British troops were based there. Most importantly, General Dwight Eisenhower used Gibraltar as his headquarters to plan Operation Torch, the 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa.

The use of Gibraltar during World War II was only possible because it was not under Spanish control. Spanish dictator Francisco Franco proclaimed Spain to be neutral.  But as General Eisenhower wrote in his 1949 book Crusade in Europe:

Worse, the airfield itself lay on the Spanish border, separated from Spanish territory only by a barbed-wire fence. Politically, Spain was leaning toward the Axis, and, almost physically, leaning against the barbed-wire fence were any number of Axis agents.

Today, Spain is an important ally and home to several U.S. military installations, but its recent behavior toward Gibraltar is unbecoming of a NATO member. Madrid’s shenanigans also have a direct impact on the effectiveness of U.S. military operations in the Mediterranean.

Spain routinely and provocatively violates Gibraltar’s territorial waters, making hundreds of illegal incursions each year. Spanish ships from the paramilitary Guardia Civil (akin to the French National Gendarmerie or Italian Carabinieri) have dangerously harassed U.S. ships entering Gibraltar’s port, putting at risk the safety of all those concerned. Most recently this occurred with the submarine USS Florida when the Royal Navy had to fire warning shots at the approaching Spanish vessels. Even though Spain is a NATO member, Madrid bans visits by U.S. ships or planes coming directly from — or headed directly to — Gibraltar. For example, if a U.S. plane wants to fly from the U.S. base at Rota, Spain to Gibraltar it must first touchdown in a third country (often Morocco or Portugal). Spain, like other southern European members of NATO, benefits greatly from the security offered by the presence of the U.S. Navy and Air Force in the region. Madrid’s restrictions on the movement of military assets in the region potentially undermines the operational capabilities of the United States.

Further, Spain has developed an uncomfortably cozy relationship with the Russian Navy, raising eyebrows across Europe. Since 2011, at least 58 Russian Navy ships have called into the Spanish port of Ceuta just across the strait from Gibraltar. At least 21 Russian naval vessels have refueled and resupplied in Spain since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in March 2014 and the European Union imposed economic sanctions against Moscow. The most recent Russian ship to visit Spain, the frigate Ladny, is even part of the Black Sea Fleet participating in the illegal occupation of Crimea.

Does this sound like the behavior of a NATO member?

The United States is correct to recognize the right of self-determination for the Rock’s inhabitants, a principle on which America was founded. Due to the access the U.S. military enjoys in Gibraltar, the strategic value of its geography to NATO, and the close relationship America has with the United Kingdom, it matters that Gibraltar remains British.

Spain may not like it, but they will have to deal with it.

 

Luke Coffey is the director of The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

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16 thoughts on “As Brexit Looms, Troubled Seas Around Gibraltar Should Have Washington’s Attention

  1. Gibraltar is a British colony on Spanish soil. It has always been so and it will be until it passes again to Spanish sovereignty. The transfer conditions contained in the Treaty of Utrecht and NEVER gave territorial waters. NEVER Spain has recognized, or to recognize Gibraltar’s territorial waters because it is a British colony in SPANISH TERRITORY. When Spain was part of UNCLOS clearly established that NEVER could apply this treaty to the colony of Gibraltar, therefore NOT RECOGNIZE territorial waters of Gibraltar, considers his all but the port and has the right and duty to control them as rest of Spanish territorial waters. Gibraltar is rated as outstanding COLONIA decolonization by the UN since 1960. All resolutions it urges UK decolonize the territory to Spain. Always prevailing the right to territorial integrity of Spain. NEVER the right to self-determination of a population implanted by the colonial power. Every year the UN REMINDS UK has to be decolonized and again become part of Spanish territory without the right to self-determination of this colony, the last colony on European soil. All the others are EXCUSES of a bad ally within NATO FAILS UN resolutions year after year since 1960 and use of its implanted EXCUSE for this population in the colony for not meeting them

    1. 1) Gibraltar has been English longer than it ever was Spanish.

      II) The residents of Gibraltar when asked, have had no interest in being part of Spain.

      III) If the Spanish want to attack a US warship, they should feel the full might of the US military machine. No attack or harassment is acceptable from an “ally”.

    2. To all the Spaniards, a little lesson on UN Resolution 1514:

      Immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.

      The people of Girbaltar have chosen to be British…..as have the Falkland islanders.

      Otherwise, if its just the land has some rights of its own due to history, Andalucia as a whole and Cueta should be given to Morocco .

  2. Spanish here. Couple of things:
    – the self determination concept makes sense in a colonized territory, which is not the case here since Gibraltar was integral part of Spain since the creation of Spain as a nation.
    – Gibraltar was not ceded to the UK for ever, the 18th century Treaty clearly specifies that should England (at that time) get rid of the possession Spain is the country entitled to receive it back. You may want to do your research.
    – Finally the most fundamental issue has not been explained here. It has nothing to with Nationalism or anything but with money laundry. Gibraltar is not part of the EU, even before the Brexit, which always made it a fiscal paradise for money laundering and transforming it into one of the biggest incoming routes for drugs into Continental Europe. Something the UK has decided to look other way to collect its share of the taxes.

  3. [A PERSONAL ATTACK WAS EDITED OUT OF THE BEGINNING OF THIS COMMENT. BE RESPECTFUL. BE POLITE. – The Moderator]
    There are several things that he either ignores on purpose or simply looks over:
    1. First of all, the UN General Assembly Resolutions on Gibraltar, that clearly give priority to the territorial integrity of Spain over the Right of Self-determination (see UN Res 2353 and 2429).
    II. The Treaty of Utrecth ceced the propriety of Gibraltar forever, BUT it did so (and I quote verbatim): “without any territorial jurisdiction and without any open communication by land with the country round about.” Therefore, without territorial jurisdiction there are no territorial waters.
    III. Gibraltar is officially a colony since it is included in the United Nations list of territories awaiting decolonization.
    Why should Spain give up on his demand to recover Gibraltar? As an independent sovereign country, Spain has every right to defend its territorial integrity, and the United Nations doctrine supports Spain on this.

    1. I apologize for my initial comment if that caused any distress, it was not intended as a personal attack at all. I just find the author’s comments tendentious.

  4. Awhile back, while Greece was having it’s economic meltdown, and Spain looked like it might follow – I pondered what would happen if Russia were to offer Greece an economic deal that was contingent on exiting NATO and opening bases for Russia. My thought was that Greece was in a place that it might accept the help, and if it did it might pull in Spain and other European countries facing huge debt crisis. Instead of an East facing West border, it would become a North vs South border – plus the East / West thing. Can you imagine Russian warm water ports in Spain and Greece?

    All it would have taken was money, which Russia didn’t have. It would have been a wild “What If?” though.

  5. I have been following warontherocks.com for many months and I do really enjoy its analysis and profound depiction of today’s international environment and how current events are synthesized. That is the reason that made me write the present lines. The recent article you uploaded As Brexit Looms, Trouble Seas Around Gibraltar Should Have Washington’s Attention, by Luke Coffey, does not follow that remarkable line of publishing. I consider it extremely biased and inaccurate in both its facts and its judgments.

    British sovereignty over Gibraltar derives from the Treaty of Utrecht’s article X which mainly states that Spain handed the both city and castle of the Rock. Spain didn’t do the same with the isthmus, the territorial waters or, of course, its air space. The transfer was to happen without any territorial jurisdiction associated for Great Britain over land, apart from the Rock itself. Additionally, Spain kept a right of preference in order to regain control of its loss in the event that the British Crown decided to forward it, to sell it, or to transfer it in any way. Thus, the isthmus wasn’t given by Spain to the United Kingdom and had to remain under Spanish sovereignty. Its continuous occupation by the former is against both the terms of the Treaty mentioned and the International Law, which is a permanent claim of Spain. The author’s statement about Gibraltar’s waters is nonsense for such do not exist according to the treaty.

    Madrid’s governments always claim for the return of its former territory but also recognizes that it is on the United Kingdom to eventually start the process. In 1946, the United Kingdom included Gibraltar in the United Nation’s “non-self-governing territory” list. In 1963, the same territory was included in the list of places subject to a decolonization process, being the single one in Europe’s soil. Since then, multiple resolutions and statements of the General Assembly have set the international doctrine concerning the issue. According to it, Gibraltar IS a colony. That is not a lie from Madrid, which is what Coffey very disrespectfully states: it is internationally acknowledged that the colonial situation of Gibraltar affects Spain’s territorial integrity and it is incompatible with the UN Resolution 1514. Moreover, considering its particular circumstances, the United Nations does not recognize the right of self-determination for Gibraltar, although it recognizes that the Gibraltarians’ will should be considered in the negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom.
    With respect to the European Union, the United Kingdom assumed the responsibility of the relationship of its “non-self-governing territory” towards the rest of the Union. The situation of the colony impeded her to enjoy some of the benefits of certain EU policies (agriculture, fishing, etc.). Additionally, Gibraltar is excluded from the Schengen Treaty, which allows Spain to close the border whenever she considers necessary by virtue of her sovereignty. As the author tendentiously mentions, it happened under Franco’s rule, but it also happened as a result of a democratically elected government’s decision.

    Finally, as far as the military collaboration between Spain and the US is concerned, the author is particularly misleading. It has been very intense in the last decades, particularly since the operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Spanish bases are located exactly halfway between the United States and those areas of operations, enabling stopovers and thereby helping to avoid the costly operation of refueling while in flight. For years, the US has been conducting intensive utilization of the Spanish bases. Only in 2009, approximately 6,500 aircraft used them. In addition to aircraft, US Navy vessels frequently use the bases for layovers. The average number of them per year exceeds 100, with the majority occurring at the base in Rota, close to the illegally occupied port of Gibraltar. In that same base, four Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers which will also be permanently deployed, to increase the military capability of the Special Purpose Marine-Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa already stationed there. Considering those figures, the author’s claim that supposed restrictions of Spain concerning movements of military assets hinder the US operational capabilities is simply malicious. That might probably be because the sources of his information, “senior British officials”, are interested part of the dispute upon the Rock.

    Finally, I would like to close by highlighting, as the author does, that the United States should be concerned about the status of Gibraltar. After all, it is one of the oldest diplomatic disagreements between two of her main allies. A negotiated return to Spain is the only possible solution according to both the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht and the resolutions of the United Nations. Arguing that Spanish rule over the Rock would undermine US military capabilities is a very fragile argument with little to none accuracy.

    Mr. Coffey may not like it, but he will have to deal with it.

    Juan Martinez Pontijas
    Masters degree in Security and Defense Studies, Universidad de Educacion a Distancia, Spain.
    United States Army Command and General Staff College Graduate.
    Currently, student at the United States Army School of Advanced Military Studies.

  6. Forget Utrecht which also mentions ‘no Jews nor Moors shall live on the Rock’ , the law of the day was the law of ‘conquest.’ In order to obtain a territory by this method the following takes place: (i) the conquering power must establish the conquest; (ii) the state of war must have ended; (iii) the conquering nation must annex the territory. In the 18th century, ‘the right of making war belonged to every nation’ and ‘a formal declaration of war to the enemy was not necessary.’ Vattel described was as, ‘War is the state in which we prosecute our right by force.’

    Forget the nonsense regarding implanted populations as The legal doctrine of population transfer being prohibited came into force with the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949; it cannot be applied retroactively and therefore is not applicable to the Falklands. The UN believes self-determination applies to “implanted populations” based on the Caribbean territories on the list of non-self-governing territories such as Anguilla where 90% of the population is descended from the Atlantic slave trade. Similarly, the UN clearly believes that these territories have the right to self-determination as it did with the numerous Caribbean nations that have achieved independence after WW2.

    And the nonsense regarding Utrecht didn’t mention territorial waters – it didn’t mention Spanish waters either.

    The fact is, it is ultimately up to the people of Gibraltar to determine how and by whom they are governed:

    Some little facts -Self-Determination.-The ICJ has made 4 Advisory Opinions and 1 Judgment that all confirm or state, ‘that the right to self determination is applicable to ALL non-self-governing territories.’ There are no exceptions. A motion to place restrictions on the right was defeated by the UN Fourth Committee on 20th October 2008 making it an inalienable right.

    Territorial Integrity. – The ICJ Kosovo Advisory Opinion explained in para 80 that, ‘the Helsinki Conference on Security and cooperation in Europe of 1 Aug 1975 stipulated that, ‘‘participating states will respect the territorial integrity of the participating states.’’ ‘Thus the scope of the principle of territorial integrity is confined to the sphere of relations between states.’ Therefore, acknowledging that the principle of territorial integrity does not impinge on the international law of self-determination. Also, para 6 of UNGA 1514, of 1960 regarding territorial integrity cannot be applied retroactively.

    UN C24 Committee – This is a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly. It has NO decision-making powers. Any resolutions that it passes have no legal significance and are irrelevant unless endorsed by the UN General Assembly.

    Sovereignty Protests -The majority rule is that mere protests do not suffice indefinitely; they become useless without further efforts to arbitrate the dispute Spain’s’s diplomatic protests is likely insufficient to disrupt British possession. The UK gave Spain the chance to go to the ICJ in the 1960s over the sovereignty of Gibraltar, Isthmus, airspace and territorial waters and she declined. That means she has acquiesced to Gibraltar’s current status.

    PS What has Spain ever done for NATO?

  7. This article reveals itself as the quintessential definition of historical inaccuracy and, while some information is provided to the reader, it seems to be only the one that is beneficial to the British side of this struggle between both countries.

    That being said, I am glad to read that other users commented already and clarified some points that the author seems to be delighted to ignore in his text.

    Here comes a summary or things that (looks like, intentionally) have been left away by the author for no good reason, besides trying to convince a non-informed reader. Let’s go (long text, read at your own risk!):

    • Gibraltar was not taken by a “Anglo-Dutch-Catalan”, but rather an Anglo-Dutch force, supported by the Pro-Habsburg Spain (as they were on the same side of the war), which was formed roughly by the old kingdom of Aragon and not just Catalonia (a map, for reference: http://image.slidesharecdn.com/3-150323031742-conversion-gate01/95/3-the-bourbon-dynasty-7-638.jpg?cb=1427098722). Gibraltar was Spanish soil before it was British.

    It is relevant though that Catalans volunteers were many in the taking of Gibraltar, but by far, not the only ones supplied by Pro-Habsburg Spain, so stating “Anglo-Dutch-Catalan” is pretty much simplistic and the author seems to try to create some concordance with modern day Catalonia independence claims, which has absolutely nothing to do as they were just fighting for another king for Spain.

    • As JM Perez, abt137 and Mateo Calafat have already stated, Gibraltar is a colony, which is not “a lie often peddled by Madrid” as the author wants to desperately believe. I think Mateo Calafat makes a good briefing of it, including UN resolutions for reference. If these statements are supported by the UN, the largest organization of countries on the planet, I think that’s something, isn’t it? Seems it is not for the author.

    *Regarding the waters surrounding “The Rock”, Spain does not “routinely and provocatively violates Gibraltar’s territorial waters, making hundreds of illegal incursions”, since as Mateo Calafat explained, they do not belong to the UK or Gibraltar authorities as is described in the Treaty of Utrecht. The fact that they made them their own does not mean they have the right to do so. No territorial jurisdiction means no territorial waters. Article X of the treaty of Utrecht in English, for reference: http://www.gibnet.com/texts/utrecht.htm

    • About a possible referendum of the citizens, it is clear that since as “The Rock” is in its very nature, a colony, its future should not be decided in that direction, due to:

    -The treaty of Utrecht clearly states that “And in case it shall hereafter seem meet to the Crown of Great Britain to grant, sell or by any means to alienate therefrom the propriety of the said town of Gibraltar, it is hereby agreed and concluded that the preference of having the sale shall always be given to the Crown of Spain before any others.”

    -The UN states in its resolution 2231 (XXI) “Question of Gibraltar”: “The resolutions on the decolonization of Gibraltar focused on the “interests” and not the “wishes” of the Gibraltarians.”

    -UN General Assembly Resolutions on Gibraltar, that clearly give priority to the territorial integrity of Spain over the Right of Self-determination (see UN Res 2353 and 2429) – Mateo Calafat

    • At another point of the article, it is stated that “Since 2011, at least 58 Russian Navy ships have called into the Spanish port of Ceuta (…)”. This happened due to the fact that NATO does not recognize Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish cities in the mainland Africa that form part of its national territory long before Morocco existed as a country) as cities under the NATO umbrella, while it does recognize Gibraltar. The Spanish government has systematically tried to change this in order to incorporate them, while it always has been refused. As non NATO cities, they are free to give service to numerous foreign fleets, not just the Russian. If NATO would really like to change this, they might as well include them under their protection umbrella and that’s that.

    • In the case “The Rock” would come back to Spanish hands, whether is in the form of full sovereignty or mutual with UK, as the author states, Spain is an important member of NATO and would not stop to assist and supply services to the ships and submarines of the alliance in Gibraltar.

    So, after some historical reminders, I would like to explain other consequences from the experience that gave me to live 17 years in the vicinity of Gibraltar:

    • Economical connotations of Gibraltar as an UK colony: As also has been commented, while Gibraltar has not yet been defined as a “fiscal paradise” by any international organization, it’s very low taxing policy has a significant impact on the neighboring Spanish cities. Gibraltar has no sales tax, no capital gains tax — and no inheritance, wealth or estate taxes. For reference on taxing in Gibraltar, follow this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_Gibraltar . Why would a company invest on the other side of the border, when in Gibraltar they would have much more fiscal benefits, and the majority of the workforce would come from mainland Spain every morning?

    NOTE: This is not just UK or Gibraltar’s fault, but much of it is due to ineffectiveness of the Spanish Government in creating a counter balance to Gibraltar economical toxicity with its neighbours.

    • Safety/Health connotations of Gibraltar as an UK colony: Many nuclear submarines dock in Gibraltar per year, most of them British but also from other nations in the NATO. What is the actual risk for the 263.739 Spanish inhabitants (according to Google) of the region around The Rock? That number seem to be much greater than the 30.000 that live in Gibraltar. Who thinks for their security? Definitely not the UK or Gibraltar authorities

    In fact, recently, there was a collision with one nuclear submarine and merchant vessel that could have put in risk the entire region. The UK government did not even inform the Spanish government, that asked for an official report just after reading it in the news: “Does this sound like the behavior of a NATO member?” – as the author implies on his article? Follow this link to expand information: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36852365

    Not long ago, Gibraltar authorities decided to throw reefs to the nearby waters, without any king of cooperation with the Spanish nearby cities, in order to regenerate the marine file in the area. It seems that, by coincidence (you bet), these reefs do no longer allow Spanish fisherman to actually fish and get money and food for their families.

    • Would there be any good for the UK in leaving Gibraltar? More things than one can expect at first! On one side, good citizens of mainland Britain would not see part of their taxes which are transferred to the NHS, move again to the Spanish NHS for all the Gibraltar citizens that use the Spanish hospitals more that their own and do not contribute to pay their use. Also, the nuclear security of the region would normalize in European standards (also for the people that live in The Rock!). The relationships between both countries would soften to a point not seeing in the last 600 years.

    The primarily reason, in my own opinion of why the Gibraltar population want to remain British, has not much to do with patriotism (probably, there are exceptions, of course), but with the current beneficial conditions they hold in terms of fiscal status. They know that, coming back to Spain would mean the end of that. But do not be deceived, people of Gibraltar are not British nor Spanish: they are Andalusian in their character, language, customs and traditions.

    As closure, dear author, when you compose an article that is supposed to inform and not to alienate, please be so kind to do research on both sides of the coin and not just the one you are interested to highlight or someone like me will have to show up in order to tell you how many lessons of history you seem to have missed.

    I hope there is a fair and legal solution to the “Question of Gibraltar”.

    1. Totally agree on all points, well developed by most commentators.
      Most comments affect the skewed view of the author of the article, completely ignoring the treaty of Utrecht and all UN resolutions concerning the colony of Gibraltar.
      It seems that the author believes that UN resolutions are not binding although every year insist on the same thing: GIBRALTAR decolonize taking into account the interests of the implanted population but NEVER self-determination. It is very clear in all UN resolutions that Gibraltar has to be again Spanish, the author likes it or not. Apparently not, because ignores all articles concerning Gibraltar.

      With regard to self-determination of peoples and how to act in British and USA there is a clear example. This is the case of the Chagos Islands, a British colony in which at 1,971 UK expels entire indigenous population, about two thousand inhabitants, to rent the land to USA. USA developed in this colony a military base after the complete expulsion of the indigenous population. Where is the right to self-determination of the people of the Chagos Islands?. This population does not even ask the right, just want to live on their land.
      So to UK only interested in self-determination of peoples when it coincides with the desire of the people to remain British and continue with the colonial situation. Examples very clear with Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands where most of its population are settlers implanted by UK.

    2. [quote]”Anglo-Dutch-Catalan” is pretty much simplistic and the author seems to try to create some concordance with modern day Catalonia independence claims, which has absolutely nothing to do as they were just fighting for another king for Spain.[/quote]

      You hit the nail on the head with that comment. In fact, it is the first time ever that I have seen someone refer to the invasion force as “Anglo-Dutch-Catalan”, instead of just an Anglo-Dutch force.

      This of course will make today’s Catalan separatists happy, and we all know that a weak and separated Spain is good for Gibraltar’s interests.

  8. Utrecht/Conquest
    Forget Utrecht which also mentions ‘no Jews nor Moors shall live on the Rock’ , the law of the day was the law of ‘conquest.’ In order to obtain a territory by this method the following takes place: (i) the conquering power must establish the conquest; (ii) the state of war must have ended; (iii) the conquering nation must annex the territory. In the 18th century, ‘the right of making war belonged to every nation’ and ‘a formal declaration of war to the enemy was not necessary.’ Vattel described was as, ‘War is the state in which we prosecute our right by force.’
    Implanted Population
    Forget the nonsense regarding implanted populations as The legal doctrine of population transfer being prohibited came into force with the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949; it cannot be applied retroactively and therefore is not applicable to the Falklands. The UN believes self-determination applies to “implanted populations” based on the Caribbean territories on the list of non-self-governing territories such as Anguilla where 90% of the population is descended from the Atlantic slave trade. Similarly, the UN clearly believes that these territories have the right to self-determination as it did with the numerous Caribbean nations that have achieved independence after WW2.
    Territorial Waters
    And the nonsense regarding Utrecht didn’t mention territorial waters – it didn’t mention Spanish waters either. How does Spain claim territorial waters for Ceuta when Portugal only ceded the city, not even the harbour in the 1668 Treaty of Lisbon? Case law – Norway/Sweden delimitation 1909. ‘The tribunal fully agreed with Norway’s contention that on the basis of the Peace of Roskilde of 1658 the marritime territory was devided automatically between Norway and Sweden. The tribunal taking into account the fundamental principle of the law of nations regarding maritime appurtenance of the land territory….the tribunal notes that in order to ascertain what have been the automatic deviding line of 1658, it must have had recourse to the principle of law at the time.’ Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Garcia-Margallo ‘not sure about success in legal challenge of Gibraltar’s waters’ quoted in Merco Press 13 Dec 2013. (Every seaborne state or territory is entitled to territorial waters).
    Self-Determination
    The fact is, it is ultimately up to the people of Gibraltar to determine how and by whom they are governed:
    Some little facts -Self-Determination.-The ICJ has made 4 Advisory Opinions and 1 Judgment that all confirm or state, ‘that the right to self determination is applicable to ALL non-self-governing territories.’ Reference : Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia 1971, P31-32; Western Sahara Advisory Opinion 1975, p68, para 162; East Timor Judgment 1995, P102, para 29; Legal Consequences of Wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory 2004, p171-172 para 88 and the Kosovo Advisory Opinion of 2010, p37, para 79.
    There are no exceptions. A motion to place restrictions on the right was defeated by the UN Fourth Committee on 20th October 2008 making it an inalienable right.
    Territorial Integrity
    The ICJ Kosovo Advisory Opinion explained in para 80 that, ‘the Helsinki Conference on Security and cooperation in Europe of 1 Aug 1975 stipulated that, ‘‘participating states will respect the territorial integrity of the participating states.’’ ‘Thus the scope of the principle of territorial integrity is confined to the sphere of relations between states.’ Therefore, acknowledging that the principle of territorial integrity does not impinge on the international law of self-determination. It couldn’t mean anything else as only individual states have signed the UN charter. Also, para 6 of UNGA 1514, of 1960 regarding territorial integrity cannot be applied retroactively.
    UN Resolutions
    UN resolutions 2070 (XX) and 2231 (XXI), frm 1965 & 1966 with a view to putting an end to the colonial situation in Gibraltar and to safeguarding the interests of the population are no longer relevant as “interests of the population” has been superseded by the international law on self-determination developed by ICJ Judgment and Advisory Opinions between 1971 and 2010 and is now “inalienable rights”. UNGA 2734 XXV 16 Dec 1970 confirmed that new principles in international law such as the right to self-determination are interpreted into the UN Charter therefore self-determination supersedes all other obligations..
    UN C24 Committee – This is a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly. It has NO decision-making powers. Any resolutions that it passes have no legal significance and are irrelevant unless endorsed by the UN General Assembly.
    Little wonder that the UN General Assembly hasn’t mentioned 2070 (XX) & 2231 (XX1) since the 1970s.

    Sovereignty Protests
    The majority rule is that mere protests do not suffice indefinitely; they become useless without further efforts to arbitrate the dispute Spain’s’s diplomatic protests is likely insufficient to disrupt British possession. The UK gave Spain the chance to go to the ICJ in the 1960s over the sovereignty of Gibraltar, Isthmus, airspace and territorial waters and she declined. That means she has acquiesced to Gibraltar’s current status. The UK and Spain have both signed the 1975 Helsinki Accord that stipulates that ‘borders in Europe can only be changed by consent.’

  9. Has anyone noticed that only Spanish natives have commented on this well written article?

    Gibraltar has been British for over 300 years. If, as JM Perez points out below…Gibraltar is a British colony on Spanish soil, then Melilla and Ceuta are in fact Spanish colonies on Morrocan soil!…this was a comment made publicly on TV by the previous king of Spain himself – Juan Carlos http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/gibraltar/10554172/Spains-King-Juan-Carlos-told-Britain-we-dont-want-Gibraltar-back.html

    Gibraltar is just Spain’s cushion for sabre-rattling. Every time Spain’s political parties have an issue, whether its an internal scam (yes there have been many) or simply economical problems, Spain will use Gibraltar as a scape-goat to divert the attention away from their own issues.

    Gibraltar is, and always shall remain..100% British!

  10. Excellent article.

    I have a Masters Degree on Spanish Shenanigans BVOBG (By Virtue of Being Gibraltarian).

    The Spanish script of excuses of smuggling and other tiresome accusations to attack Gibraltar has not changed over the past 310 years!!!

    The gateway into Europe of the tobacco, drugs and arms smuggling is the SPANISH town of Algeciras via container loads, and between the SPANISH enclaves in Africa something they always omit to say.

    Spain’s problem is that it “considers” a lot of things but ignores the FACTS.

    The most absurd and risible argument put before the UN is that they claim the Spanish are the “authentic” inhabitants of the Rock! Never mind that the Arabs had inhabited the Rock before them for 700 years after they expelled them from the region!

    The UN does not urge the UK to decolonize Gibraltar “TO SPAIN” – TOTALLY FALSE!!! The problem again with the Spanish is that they make it up as they go along.

    The illustrious commentators JM Pontijas and Mateo Calafat should give us a good laugh and put themselves forward to take the matter to an international court so the matter can be buried permanently in Gibraltar’s favour, although one would have thought that after Gibraltar was ceded in perpetuity, and exchanged for Florida and Menorca it would have settled Spain’s obsession with Gibraltar by now!

    Gibraltar has been in the EU well before Spain, so why they have to make so many false statements is beyond comprehension.

    Gibraltar is the most regulated finance centre thanks to Spain’s vexatious and obsessive complaints AT THE EU THE SPANIARDS SAY WE HAVE NEVER BELONGED TO!

    The EU has carried out numerous investigations pushed by Spain, and given Gibraltar the green light every time.

    Thank you Spain for enhancing Gibraltar’s reputation! Actually it is Spain that was in breach of EU laws by deliberately creating queues at the frontier, quite apart from Madrid being THE “fiscal paradise” model for money laundering activities!

    Gibraltar is a SELF GOVERNING TERRITORY except for foreign affairs, with its own government and judiciary, whether the Spanish like it or not.

    The Spanish “claim” (what claim???) has no legal basis whatsoever. It is purely one of sentimentality, ignorance, and total disrespect of democratic principles they know nothing about.

    The Spanish clause has no bearing in the UNCLOS and DOES NOT ALTER THE FACT THAT GIBRALTAR TERRITORIAL WATERS ARE BRITISH! As the territory is BRITISH common sense would tell anyone its waters ARE British!

    Transfer conditions on Gibraltar are as unlikely an event as “hell freezing over”, so the West can rest assured that the defence of the straits of Gibraltar will never fall totally under the control of an unstable, ungovernable and unreliable country such as Spain.

    Ban Ki Moon has stated Gibraltar has the right to self determination. The only ones placing obstacles are the Spanish who on the one hand claim colonies should not exist, but on the other hinders Gibraltar’s decolonization with an absurd “territorial integrity” claim, when the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Gibraltar rests with the UK in perpetuity.

    If by “territorial integrity” the Spanish mean that Gibraltar is on Spanish soil, then they have a problem with Ceuta and Melilla being in a different continent!

    All Spanish arguments are twisted misinterpretations.

    For the benefit of the Spanish commentators, not even the UN can define “territorial integrity”!!!

    “Article2(4) of the UN Charter requires all member states to ‘refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’…..”.

    Spain has been using threats and force against Gibraltar for over 300 years!

    Article 8, 8.1.3. “While the Charter does not define what it actually means by “territorial integrity”, it is now well recognised and reflects the fundamental international objective in the stability of boundaries”.

    “Stability of boundaries” means just that, Britain’s territorial integrity (territory under the effective control and possession of a State). and sovereignty of Gibraltar.

    The inhabitants will fiercely continue to uphold that – BRITISH forever.

  11. The reason why Gibraltar, along with all British Overseas Territories, is still listed by the UN as a colony, is because it does not fit any of the three main options for decolonisation.

    *Independence? Not an option for Gibraltar without Spanish consent, and even if it were to happen, Gibraltar would be in a similar position to Spain as Monaco is to France, dependent on the goodwill of its giant neighbour for its survival.

    *Integration with an independent state? No support for integration with Spain, while integration with the UK is not on offer from the UK, which, unlike France, rejects the concept of integrating its remaining ‘overseas territories’, while many in Gibraltar are against it.

    *Free association with an independent state? Not an option either as it requires the freedom to disassociate and seek independence, not an option for Gibraltar, while the UK opposes it for all its overseas territories as it wants the reserve power to legislate for them, as it did in the Turks and Caicos where the local constitution was suspended.

    The US territories of Guam, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands are also on the list, as are the French territories of New Caledonia and Tahiti, despite them being represented in the French Parliament as integral parts of the French Republic.

    The UN’s inflexibility and pedantry is sometimes comical, given how it has insisted that New Zealand should make the people of Tokelau (population 1500) vote for free association, which they have done, twice, but on both occasions falling short of the required two-thirds majority.

    I notice the whataboutery on the part of some Spanish posters about Diego Garcia, though Hong Kong is usually cited. The main stumbling block to the Chagos Islanders’ return is the US wanting to use the island as a base and refusing to let them return.

    However, the British government was not much better when it evacuated Gibraltarians, infamously being described by a governor as ‘useless mouths’, to the UK, Portugal and Jamaica, and did not begin to allow them to return home after the Second World War, the last of them not returning until 1951.

    Much of the territory around present-day Ceuta and Melilla was ceded by Morocco under the Treaty of Wad-Ras in 1860, as was the enclave of Ifni, which Spain refused to return, even after the ‘Forgotten War’ in 1957, in which Morocco occupied most of the enclave, going as far to make it a province of the Spanish State.

    UN General Assembly Resolution 2354 (XXII) called for the decolonisation of Ifni, which took place in June 1969, without an act of self-determination, despite Spain having brought over a group of ‘Uncle Tom’ tribesmen to say how much they wanted to remain Spanish.

    This was much to the chagrin of far-right politicians like Blas Piñar, who complained about how the UN exerted pressure on Spain to give Ifni to Morocco, but none on Britain to give Gibraltar to Spain. So, less of the ‘Hong Kong and Kowloon Island were ceded to Britain in perpetuity’, please, as Ifni was ceded to Spain in perpetuity, under a treaty imposed after a war.

    On the matter of Gibraltar residents using public health facilities in Spain at no cost, Spain is reimbursed by the Gibraltar Health Authority, which similarly reimburses the NHS in the UK. If it has failed to do so, it has been due to Spanish non-recognition of Gibraltar’s relevant authorities.

    As for the Gibraltarians being ‘neither British nor Spanish but Andalusian’, not many Andalusian switch between English and a Spanish dialect peppered with Genoese and Ladino words, read local newspapers in English, and much prefer British TV channels over Spanish ones. On the other hand, Gibraltarians prefer Spanish food to British (and who can blame them?) with fish and chip shops and pubs being for the tourists, like with the old red telephone boxes which weren’t there fifteen years ago.