Just a month ago, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, wrote about the historic opportunity that President Pedro Sanchez has lost to regain the sovereignty of Gibraltar with Brexit, now is that Spain will be the only one of the 193 countries of the United Nations that will not control its borders, “he pointed out. The Spanish Government has missed this opportunity,” he continued, “while the United Kingdom and Gibraltar have achieved all the objectives they had set for themselves. London retains sovereignty, jurisdiction, and military base. Gibraltar will continue to be British and will continue without requiring the value-added tax, the taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and oil and without taxing the profits that the companies established in the Rock obtain abroad.
With this principle according to which Spain and the United Kingdom arrived at the beginning of the year to avoid a hard Brexit in Gibraltar, we have lived through the latest episode of a wound that has been open for more than 300 years. Specifically, since the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Three centuries in which all the republics, dictatorships, monarchies, or governments of the PSOE and the PP have tried to recover this strategic enclave of 6.8 square kilometers and 31,000 inhabitants unsuccessfully. As many experts in international politics point out, in January Spain lost the historic opportunity to demand, at least, the co-sovereignty of the British colony, in exchange for its inhabitants continuing to have advantages typical of EU citizens. But the truth is that if we look at what was established in Utrecht, it can be established that Great Britain has been blatantly violating some of the points that were established in the treaty for 300 years. And, therefore, 300 years ago Gibraltar should have been Spanish, according to political law and international law.
We will always be by your side
In fact, in 1720 King George I of Great Britain had already sent the first letter to Spain in which he promised to return the rock “quickly”, but it never happened. Then the wars came and the years passed, and again and again, the English failed to comply with the points established in that agreement that is still in force today. These violations, however, have never been used by the Spanish Government as an argument to demand the recovery of sovereignty ceded by King Felipe V. And that, in recent times, the public appearances of Sánchez with the most varied promises. In 2017, the Prime Minister assured that he had reached an agreement with the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, according to which she promised to address the issue.
And he promised that if the United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union with Brexit, “Gibraltar’s political, legal and even geographical relationship will go through Spain.” In November 2018, however, Press had exclusive access to a letter from May’s government in which it denied such claims. “The Spanish government requested it repeatedly, but has not succeeded,” the Prime Minister later explained concerning the amendment of Article 184 of the Treaty, adding a message to the citizens of the rock, “We will always be by your side, we are proud that Gibraltar is British. Our position on their sovereignty has not changed and will not change. ‘
One of the articles of 1713 violated by Great Britain is the X “Felipe V cedes by this Treaty to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire property of the city and castles of Gibraltar, together with its port, defenses, and fortresses, giving the said property absolutely so that he may have it and enjoy it with full right and forever, without exception or impediment. However, nowadays the definition of this territory is the subject of a dispute concerning land, airspace, and the sea, precisely because the treaty establishes that the property was transferred “without territorial jurisdiction and open communication with the neighboring country by land . This means that, although the United Kingdom has a valid title of sovereignty, the problem of its territorial scope would have to be resolved, since in the aforementioned article a borderline was not established and demarcation was not made either. The agreement talks about the city, the castle, and the buildings added in 1704, but what about the extensions of the land that were carried out in later years? Spain already showed its opposition to the British presence on the spit of land and objected to the construction of the airport in 1938, as they were outside the demarcation established in Utrecht in 1713.
“In times of great anguish”
The treaty also establishes that “communication by sea with the coast of Spain cannot be open and secure at all times.” The objective, he said, was “to prevent abuse and fraud in the introduction of goods.” This isolated Gibraltar by land, which he allowed to supply from the sea for his subsistence, but never trade with what he obtained. While “in times of great anguish” it allowed its inhabitants to buy food in Spanish territory, but only for their consumption.
According to this provision, Gibraltar remained isolated until 1985, when, in the context of Spain’s incorporation into NATO, it tried to attract Gibraltarians to positions more favorable to its cause and favor the development of the region as a whole. However, these steps to facilitate exchanges have not produced significant progress towards the goal of regaining the territory. Quite the contrary, since Great Britain, in addition to having consolidated its autonomous political status, has been reinforcing the economy of the colony and continues to work to convert the rock into a business center in the medium term, contrary to what was agreed in Utrecht.
In recent times, the great obsession of the British Government has been to establish that the waters surrounding the rock are under English sovereignty, something that Spain does not accept, for the simple reason that only the waters of the port of Gibraltar were ceded in the treaty. Even so, the past Government of David Cameron, for example, did not miss an opportunity to denounce the alleged violations of those waters by Spanish vessels, but as agreed, such violations have not occurred.
At the end of the assignment
The third pact established in 1713 is the most important since it alluded to the fact that Spain has priority to terminate the session if Great Britain tries to “give, sell or in any way alienate the property of Gibraltar”. In this sense, the British Government has already decided to “alienate” its colony. Obviously, not to a foreign power, but the population of the rock through ambiguous concessions. On the one hand, the Gibraltar Constitution of 1969 and, on the other, the reforms adhered to in 2006, in which the right of self-determination of its neighbors was introduced although it conditioned “existing treaties”, as required by Spain. If we paid attention to International Law and interpreted correctly Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain’s cession would have already ended and it would have to recover the rights to the pan.
It should not be forgotten that the aforementioned article considers this piece of land as a strategic foothold without demographic dimension, so nothing is said about its population in it. Hence, he ordered the reversion to Spain if Great Britain abandoned it. This would not only prevent the transfer to a third country but also English citizens registered in Gibraltar, as already endorsed by the United Nations in its resolution 2253 of 1967. This is what the historian Federico Sanchez Aguilar described as the “open wound” of Spain in its relationship with Great Britain. The never-ending tale, even though, according to what was agreed, it should have ended by now. But there we continue. In 2009, the then Socialist Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, claimed that the claim to the sovereignty of the rock was “inalienable.” And in 2013, his successor, Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, author of the aforementioned, replied that “the recess of the Moratinos era concerning Gibraltar is over.