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London 19:03, 02 Jan 2013
New York 14:03, 02 Jan 2013

UNGA FOURTH COMMITTEE:  UK Right of Reply on Gibraltar

10 October 2012

UK Right of Reply on Gibraltar delivered by Michael Tatham, Ambassador and Political Coordinator, 9 October 2012
Michael Tatham

I would like to exercise the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’s right of reply to the statement made by the distinguished representative of Spain about Gibraltar. 

The United Kingdom recalls its sovereignty over Gibraltar and the Territorial Waters surrounding it and reaffirms that as a separate territory, recognised by the United Nations and included since 1946 in its list of non-self-governing territories, Gibraltar enjoys the individual and collective rights accorded by the Charter of the United Nations. The 2006 Gibraltar Constitution, which entered into force on 2 January 2007, provides for a modern and mature relationship between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar. This description would not apply to any relationship based on colonialism. As is well known, the United Kingdom regrets that the Committee of 24’s outdated approach seems not so far to have allowed for this to be recognised. The criteria used by the Committee in its deliberation on whether a Non-Self governing territory should be de-listed fail to take into account the way that the relationship between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar has been modernised in a way that is acceptable to both parties. 

The United Kingdom does not accept that the principle of territorial integrity has ever been applicable to the decolonisation of Gibraltar. Nor does the United Kingdom accept the assertion that the people of Gibraltar do not have the right of self determination.

Gibraltar’s Constitution confirms the right of self-determination of the Gibraltarian people, the realisation of which must be promoted and respected in conformity with the provisions of the United Nations Charter and any other applicable international treaties.  Gibraltar's right of self-determination is not constrained by the Treaty of Utrecht except in so far as Article X gives Spain the right of refusal should the United Kingdom ever renounce sovereignty. Thus, while noting that the Government of Gibraltar does not share the view that this constraint exists, it is the position of the United Kingdom that independence would only be an option with Spanish consent. The United Kingdom recognises that the act of deciding to accept the new Constitution in a referendum was an exercise of the right of self-determination by the Gibraltarian people in that context. The referendum, organised by the then Government of Gibraltar, with the unanimous approval of the then Gibraltar Assembly (now the Gibraltar Parliament) constituted a democratic, lawful and entirely proper act.   

Gibraltar’s Constitution does not in any way diminish British sovereignty over Gibraltar. The United Kingdom retains its full international responsibility for Gibraltar, including its external affairs and defence, and as the Member State responsible for Gibraltar in the European Union. This fully accords with the freely expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar. The United Kingdom again calls on the Committee of 24 to review how, in its future deliberations, it might better take account of the modern relationship between the UK and Gibraltar which clearly reflects the wishes of the people of Gibraltar. The United Kingdom reaffirms the longstanding commitment to the people of Gibraltar that the UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes. The UK Government also confirms that it will not enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content. 

The United Kingdom continues to enjoy strong relations with Spain and will continue to work in the same constructive spirit on Gibraltar-related issues that we do on other issues. The United Kingdom notes that both it and Gibraltar desire to continue the Trilateral Forum for Dialogue, as the most credible, constructive and practical means of strengthening UK-Spain-Gibraltar relations for the benefit of all parties. The Trilateral Forum is without prejudice to the UK and Spain’s respective positions on sovereignty, on which the United Kingdom notes that the United Nations does not take a view. Furthermore, the Trilateral has fostered a general improvement in relations and dialogue on practical ways of building co-operation for the benefit of people on both sides of the frontier.  

The United Kingdom, like the Government of Gibraltar, therefore regrets the Government of Spain’s decision to withdraw from the Trilateral Forum. The United Kingdom sees the value of dialogue and cooperation, which the Trilateral Forum was designed to facilitate. However, the United Kingdom recognises that the forum cannot continue without the agreement of all parties. We would like to see cooperation continue in some form and to return to the Trilateral at the earliest opportunity. The United Kingdom therefore stands ready to explore new ways of taking forward dialogue and co-operation on issues of mutual importance by any means that fully reflect the interests, rights and responsibilities of the people of Gibraltar.

The United Kingdom hopes that it will be possible to achieve a Consensus Decision, as has been the case for the last 37 years, and continues to work in a constructive spirit with the Government of Spain this end.

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