Being True to
our Friends

14 October 2002

The Rt. Hon. Michael
Ancram DL QC MP
Shadow Foreign Secretary

The European-Atlantic

Extract from his Speech

Now the last area I want to talk about tonight is an area where I believe we've not only forgotten our friends, but we are in the course of betraying them, and that is Gibraltar. Somebody said the other day, "Why do you bother about Gibraltar, there's only 30,000 people there." But there are only what- two and a half thousand people in the Falkland Islands. And the reason we minded about the Falkland Islands is because what we were trying to defend was democracy. What we were trying to defend was people's rights of self-determination. And I don't mind whether it's two thousand or thirty thousand or five million or fifty million. If democracy is threatened in the way that I believe it is being threatened in Gibraltar, then I will mind about it.

Quite simply, what is happening in Gibraltar, is a policy which has no chance of succeeding. It's the most extraordinary box we've got ourselves into. The constitution of law says that the people of Gibraltar have to accept any constitutional change. That the government set off, in talks with Spain, offering them constitutional change in the form of shared sovereignty, in the knowledge, that if they had a referendum in the end part of this summer which they originally promised, they would lose it, so they began to extend the process. And we saw this summer talking about an agreement in principle to share sovereignty, and then we're going to have a joint statement of principles between the two governments, then we're going to have- and John will remember this very very well- they're going to have a framework document. And then we're going to have more negotiations and eventually someway down the line, there will be a referendum. And what this government is about is quite simply, to create a situation where they can put more and more pressure on the people of Gibraltar in order to achieve the result that they want to achieve rather than the result that the people of Gibraltar want for themselves.

And I have to say, that I do support the holding of a referendum in a month's time, because I believe it's absolutely right for the people of Gibraltar should very clearly indicate what they feel about the proposal to share sovereignty. And I can tell you what the answer is going to be, its going to be well over 95% against shared sovereignty. And the government says, "very well, we don't think it's a proper referendum and we're not going to pay attention to it." And I just say to the government, its an old saying, "if you see an elephant on your doorstep, its worth recognizing the fact, otherwise you tend to get trampled on." And this vote is going to be an enormous elephant, and I think the government is going to have to take account of it. And there is a way forward, I'm not saying that there should be no progress, but again, John will remember in Northern Ireland, we had one moment when, in order to get two governments and another party together in the same room without having to represent each other, we had a three-sided table. And the basis of that three-sided table was we were able to involve the three key parties in the discussions and find those areas where we could actually work to agree rather than spending hours debating those areas where we couldn't.

If this government is wise now it should suspend the talks and reconvene them again later on that basis. We believe the rights of the people of Gibraltar to decide on their own sovereignty are paramount and that any proposal whether in principle or not, any agreement whether in principle or not, reached between the government of the United Kingdom of Spain we will not feel bound by when we come to government unless it has the consent of the people of Gibraltar. We give them that undeterred, they are the ones who decide, and we will defend their right to decide.

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