TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE FOREIGN SECRETARY THE RT HON JACK STRAW TO SENOR MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS, SPANISH FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER DATED 31ST MARCH 2006.
Thank you for your letter of 28 March in response to mine of earlier that day. I welcome the constructive tone with which you and your government have responded to this constitution. I also appreciate that you have sought, in your letter, to set out the Spanish Government's position on a number of issues relating to Gibraltar. Given that, and the spirit of close co-operation and understanding which has characterised our discussions over Gibraltar, I thought it sensible to respond, and clarity at this stage those points in your letter which do not exactly match our own position.
As you noted, my letter confirmed that the new constitution will not diminish British Sovereignty over Gibraltar, that Gibraltar will continue to be listed as a British Overseas Territory in the British Nationality Act (as amended), and that the UK will retain its full international responsibility for Gibraltar. It made no reference to a change to Gibraltar's international status, nor to a link between the new Constitution, any referendum by which it may be accepted by the people of Gibraltar, and the process of de-colonisation.
Indeed, it is my own view that the label "colonial" is misleading and anachronistic in this context; regardless of the United Nations dimension. As Peter Caruana and I said in our joint statement on Monday, the new Constitution provides for "a modern and mature" relationship between the UK and Gibraltar. I do not think that this description would apply to any relationship based on colonialism.
You noted the statement in my letter that the right of self-determination for Gibraltar should be promoted in accordance with the other rights and principles of the UN Charter, except as constrained by the Treaty of Utrecht. As previous discussions between our countries at the United Nations have demonstrated, dating back a number of years, we take a different view on exactly which of those principles are applicable in the context of Gibraltar.
Your letter also expressed the hope that we shall be able to resume negotiations on sovereignty issues relating to Gibraltar without further delay. William Hague, Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman in the House of Commons, asked me about this during my statement to the House last Monday 27 March. I made clear in my response that Gibraltar's sovereignty would remain British as long as the people of Gibraltar wish it to do so. That will also again be made clear in the Preamble to the new Gibraltar Constitution Order. In light of this commitment, and as I have made clear to Peter Caruana some time ago, HMG would not enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar was not content.
I welcome the warm sentiments with which you closed your letter, on the spirit of friendship and co-operation in our relations, and, for my part, I fully reciprocate them.