Britain rejects Spanish request for Gibraltar sovereignty talks

THE BRITISH government yesterday refused Spain’s offer of talks over Gibraltar’s sovereignty as the dispute over the overseas territory showed no sign of abating.

Downing Street said it would not listen to Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, who used a Wall Street Journal article to call for an end to “the colonial situation” in the tiny territory.

Yesterday Downing Street insisted that “sovereignty is clear in our minds” and said they would only consider talks with Madrid over the disputed issue of fishing rights.

Garcia-Margallo also claimed that the Spanish government’s sudden imposition of tough checks at the Gibraltar border – which have led to queues of up to four hours – were an “exercise of its responsibilities to the EU” due to alleged high levels of cigarette smuggling.

The dispute centres on the Gibraltar government’s decision to build a concrete reef in order to revive local marine life. Spain claims the reef has ruined the livelihoods of local fishermen and insists this water was never ceded to Britain under the terms of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, which brought an end to War of the Spanish Succession and handed the peninsula to the UK.

Spain’s opposition claim the dispute is a smokescreen to distract from the country’s economic woes.