Gibraltar as viewed by lawyers, and by aliens | Letters

The Rock of Gibraltar with flags of the United Kingdom, Gibraltar and the European Union. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Neil Addison (Letters, 4 April) is wrong to suggest that the reference to an effective Spanish veto over Gibraltar in the European council’s draft negotiating guidelines is illegal under the treaties. The requirement, in article 50 (2) of the TEU, of a qualified majority in the council relates specifically to the withdrawal agreement, which must merely “take account” of the “framework” for the future relationship between the UK and the EU. It does not cover the future relationship agreement, which cannot be begun until the UK has withdrawn.

In the draft guidelines, specific mention is made of Gibraltar after Brexit, when the UK will be what the EU refers to as a “third country”, and when article 50 will have served its purpose and no longer be applicable. Moreover, even if the EU27 chose to give Spain such a veto over the withdrawal agreement itself, as long as this choice had the support of a qualified majority in the council (and a simple majority in the European parliament), it would be perfectly legal.

Mr Addison says that “the suggestion that Gibraltar should be treated differently [from] the rest of the UK is illegal and dishonourable”. It is neither, and to speak of treating Gibraltar differently from “the rest of the UK” is nonsense. Gibraltar is not now and has never been part of the UK. It is a British overseas territory, which is the modern way of spelling the word “colony”.
Tom Flynn

• One way to ease tensions over Gibraltar (May seeks to ease tensions over Gibraltar, 4 April) is for the UK and Spain to separate the two principles of territorial integrity and self-determination and recognise them both. This could be symbolised by the Spanish and British flags flying together on the Rock (and the Falkland Islands too).

I wonder what someone from another planet would think when s/he came down to Earth for the first time and saw the union jack flying on a rock on the southern tip of Spain – and on islands nearly 8,000 miles away from the UK but fewer than 500 miles from Argentina.
Richard Norton-Taylor
(Resident of Gibraltar 1951-53), London

• Dr Michael Winter (Letters, 4 April) says that Spain has never acquiesced in Britain’s “land grab” of Gibraltar. I always understood that Spain had ceded the territory to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, nine years after Britain first occupied it. Does this not count as acquiescence? Spain may have spent the past 300 years trying to undo that cession, but Gibraltar remains British in international law, and not merely by force of arms.
Andrew Connell

• Why stop at 300 years, Dr Winter? Who “owned” Gibraltar before that? The Moroccans. And who now has an illegal, disputed territory called La Ceuta opposite Gibraltar in Morocco? Yes, you’ve guessed it, Spain.
Caroline Clark
Bude, Cornwall

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