4 November 1998
The document released by the Spanish Foreign Ministry setting out in writing their version of an alleged agreement or understanding on fishing with the British Government is extraordinary in several respects.
Firstly, it repeats the allegation of the existence of an agreement to permit fishing in breach of our laws. This is incompatible with repeated statements made by HE the Governor and the FCO that no such agreement has been made or is possible. It is also incompatible with British Ministerial statements of what has occurred. The Gibraltar Government holds HMG to its previous statements and therefore assumes that the Spaniards are mistaken in their understanding of what has occurred. The Gibraltar Government has today sought a public re-affirmation of the often stated British Government position.
Secondly, the Spanish statement implies that Spanish laws and not Gibraltar laws apply to Spanish fishermen in Gibraltar waters. This absurd statement, as well as the attempt to suggest that the only relevant factors are the security of the British naval base, and Spanish law, is irresponsible and calculated to inflame local opinion. This behaviour on the part of the Spanish Government puts into sharp perspective recent statements in London that Spain was exercising restraint. The Spanish statement suggests that she is doing the opposite.
The Gibraltar Government is in close and intense discussions with HE the Governor and HMG about the implications of the statements and the Government expects to make a fuller statement on the matter tomorrow.
In the meantime, the Gibraltar Government's position remains that no agreement to legitimise or allow illegal fishing is possible to acceptable. HMG continue to deny that any such agreement exists in full knowledge of the statements from the Spanish Government indicating the contrary.