Peter Hain’s 2002 co-sovereignty negotiations with Spain were conducted over the heads of the Gibraltarians, against their wishes, and in the knowledge that any co-sovereignty proposal would be rejected if put to the people in a referendum (Joint sovereignty of Gibraltar is win-win, says former minister, 6 April). The timing of the negotiations may explain why they went ahead anyway. The Blair government was working hard to convince the Spanish government to back the invasion of Iraq, in the face of overwhelming opposition among the Spanish public. Eventually, as Hain notes, it was Prime Minister Aznar who pulled the plug on the co-sovereignty proposal. The Spanish government could be persuaded to support an illegal war, but it was never going to accept a deal over Gibraltar that did not lead, in due course, to full Spanish sovereignty.
Gibraltar’s 98% vote against co-sovereignty (in a referendum initially dismissed as “eccentric” by the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw) was a resounding rejection of Hain’s scheme. It helped to secure the British government’s commitment never to enter into sovereignty negotiations without the consent of the Gibraltarians, but it seems to have done nothing to diminish Hain’s confidence that he knows what’s best for Gibraltar and its people.
Wolfson College, Cambridge
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