The Chief Minister of Gibraltar has said there is not “a snowball’s chance in hell” that Britain would grant Spain talks over the Rock’s sovereignty.
By Fiona Govan, Gibraltar
11:51AM BST 22 Aug 2013
A day after Spain’s foreign minister urged Britain to the table to negotiate amid an escalating border dispute, Fabian Picardo absolutely ruled out any discussion of the sovereignty of Gibraltar or its territorial waters.
“There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Mr Margallo is going to get bilateral talk on the sovereignty of Gibraltar,” the 41-year-old leader told the Daily Telegraph in an interview at his office.
“Spain will not even get the opportunity to talk, discuss, negotiate about the sovereignty of Gibraltar if the people of Gibraltar don’t say to the UK that we are content with them having that discussion. I have made very clear that there is no question of Gibraltar consenting to any such talks occuring,” he said.
Mr Picardo gave the interview a day after Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, the Spanish foreign minister, penned an article in the Wall Street Journal insisting on the removal of an artificial reef created by Gibraltar to boost fishing stocks, from waters that he said were “undoubtedly Spanish”.
The chief minister hit back arguing that they are recognised as British Gibraltar territorial waters in a UN charter accepted by all countries excepting Spain.
“I can tell you very confidently that under international law the waters are defined as British Gibraltar territorial waters. We have said repeatedly if Spain doesn’t recognise this let us go to the international tribunal on the law of the sea and let them determine the issue.”
He also said Gibraltar would welcome a discussion on “fishing practices” with the Spanish but that sovereignty could not be brought to the table.
“We are developed in our plan to change Gibraltar law to deal with the issues that concern local fisherman and Spanish fishermen in a way that is designed to produce environmentally sustainable fishing for the future.”
The diplomatic spat over the territory at Spain’s southern foot has escalated since Spain began imposing stringent checks at the border have caused lengthy delays to frontier traffic, widely seen as a “retaliatory move” in response to the fishing reef.
On Monday the European Commission confirmed it would send observers to the border at the invitation of both London and Madrid.
The breakdown in Anglo-Spanish relations over the peninsula comes 300 years after the Treaty of Utrecht in which Spain ceded Gibraltar to the British in perpetuity.
Mr Picardo challenged Mr Margallo to bring the issue of sovereignty to the UN and international courts.
“The people of Gibraltar, the government of Gibraltar, the parliament of Gibraltar, we are all united in wanting to remain British.” Mr Picardo said.
“If Spain thinks that self determination does not apply to the people of Gibraltar let us take this issue to the international court of justice in the Hague. That will determine once and for all whether we do have the right to self determination or not.”