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Declassified secret documents reveal UK cabinet’s ‘direct rule’ discussions in 1994

Documents detailing the British Cabinet’s discussions over Gibraltar in December 1994, amid speculation that Whitehall was threatening to impose ‘direct rule’, have been released to the public but remain heavily redacted.

According to the papers, the Cabinet met to discuss the situation in Gibraltar on 15 December 1994, the day after The Independent newspaper had carried a story headlined ‘UK tells Gibraltar it risks direct rule’ over its apparent failure to implement EU legislation.

The Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd told the Cabinet he intended to meet his opposite number, Spanish Foreign Minister, Javier Solana, the following week to discuss Spain’s decision to impose stricter controls at the frontier in response to concerns over smuggling.

Four days later at the Foreign Secretary’s country retreat, Chevening House in Kent, the pair agreed to set up a joint commission to look into measures to tackle the problem, the documents reveal.

Mr Hurd informed Cabinet members that he had also met with Gibraltar’s then Chief Minister, Joe Bossano, in September 1994 and had given the Gibraltar government a deadline of January 1995 to implement a backlog of around 50 EU directives, including several relating to banking, financial services and money-laundering.

But by the time the Cabinet met in December, insufficient progress had been reported.

Key passages in the Cabinet discussion on Gibraltar, released to The National Archives in London last Friday, have been removed by Whitehall censors.

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