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‘No bilateral talks on Gibraltar’, Britain tells Spain

Britain has dismissed a formal Spanish request for bilateral dialogue over Gibraltar, the Chronicle can reveal.

A letter from acting Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo was handed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by a senior official from the Spanish embassy in London on September 20.

In the letter, Sr García-Margallo said Brexit would have implications for Gibraltar and made clear his desire for urgent bilateral dialogue with the UK.

Without a bilateral agreement, “…it will not be possible to define Gibraltar’s new relationship with the EU,” the Spanish minister wrote in the letter, which was released to the Spanish media last night.

The Spanish official delivering the letter last week received an immediate initial response: a reaffirmation of the UK’s double-lock commitment to Gibraltar.

Several days later, that message was underscored by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in writing to his Spanish counterpart, the Chronicle understands.

The Foreign Office has not gone into detail on the response to Spain, but the Chronicle understands the UK made clear its often-stated position – shared by the Gibraltar Government – that it wants a return to trilateral dialogue, ruling out any prospect of bilateral talks on Gibraltar.

“We can confirm we received a letter from the caretaker Spanish Foreign Minister on 20 September requesting a meeting to discuss Gibraltar,” a Foreign Office spokesperson told the Chronicle.

“Officials made it clear that the UK’s position on sovereignty was unchanged, drawing attention to the Foreign Secretary’s 16 July statement that ‘…the people of Gibraltar have repeatedly and overwhelmingly expressed their wish to remain under British sovereignty and we will respect their wishes. We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes. Furthermore, the UK will not enter into any process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content’.”

The Spanish letter was shared with the Gibraltar Government, which was consulted on the UK’s response.

“Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar was fully aware of the receipt by the United Kingdom of the letter from Snr Margallo,” a spokesman for No 6 Convent Place said.

“We were consulted on, and are satisfied with, the reply sent by the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP.?”

The acting Spanish Government has also sent letters to other EU countries setting out its position on Gibraltar against the backdrop of Brexit.

In the letter, Spain formally requested EU countries to exclude Gibraltar from Brexit negotiations with the UK and asked for their “support and understanding” for the Spanish position.

Sr García-Margallo told his EU counterparts that Gibraltar should be treated as a bilateral matter between the UK and Spain.

He said he believed the UK and Spain would be able to reach an agreement “acceptable to both and in the interests of the inhabitants of Gibraltar”.

“In this way, we would avoid the dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain having a negative effect, as is happening now, with determined issues such as the blockage of EU legislation in the area of the environment, fisheries or civil aviation,” Sr García-Margallo wrote.