Gibraltarians oppose any British concessions to Spain

GIBRALTAR (L.A. Times) – Jonathan Stagnetto is a true Gibraltarian: very British, of broadly mixed European ancestry and fiercely proud of this territory’s unique character.

Like many residents here, Stagnetto bitterly opposes any concessions to long-standing Spanish claims of sovereignty over this British colony. He fears that despite local resistance, London is tempted to dispose of Gibraltar as an unwanted legacy impeding greater British influence within the European Union.

Such fears skyrocketed in July when British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain was willing to establish joint sovereignty here with Spain.

It remains unclear whether Britain wants to get rid of this 2.5 square-mile territory, or whether it simply wants to be seen as engaged in serious negotiations with Madrid.

In his July comments to the British Parliament, Straw argued that an agreement would benefit Gibraltar by ending uncertainty over its future and smoothing its relations with Spain.

Historically, French-German ties have often been seen as central to EU developments. Many observers say London and Madrid are now trying to build a similar relationship to push reforms they favor.

Yet under British proposals made so far, it is difficult to envision a scenario in which Gibraltar actually ends up being turned over to Spanish control.

Straw stressed in his comments to Parliament that a joint sovereignty deal must be permanent, not a stepping stone toward full Spanish control, and that any agreement must be approved by the people of Gibraltar in a referendum.

But Spain has repeatedly said it will never give up its demand to eventually recover full sovereignty.

Gibraltar was captured by a joint Anglo-Dutch force in 1704 and ceded by Spain to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. The treaty included a condition that if Britain ever left the territory, Spain would have preference “before any others” in recovering it.