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Jubilation In Gibraltar Following Referendum Result

by Caroline Maxwell,, London

11 November 2002

There was jubiliation in Gibraltar last week following the sovereignty referendum which saw 98.97% of those polled voting against the possibility of joint sovereignty with Spain.

Speaking following the announcement of the results, Chief Minister, Peter Caruana told the population of the Rock that: 'We have sent a clear message to the world that this is our homeland, that we are a people with political rights that we will not give up, and that those rights include the right freely to decide our own future and we will certainly not give that up.'

And there was more good news for the Gibraltar government, as a foreign affairs select committee released a damning report on the Anglo-Spanish negotiation process.

The Labour-dominated select committee condemned the outcome of the talks as 'the worst of all worlds', arguing that they had unnecessarily raised the expectations of the Spanish, whilst simultaneously destroying the trust held by the Gibraltarian people in the UK government.

The report rejected Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw's suggestion that the Gibraltar government's decision to hold a referendum was 'eccentric', observing that:

'In British Overseas Territories, it is of great importance that democratic expressions of views should take place when the territories themselves so determine. We recommend that the British government take full account of the views of the government of Gibraltar as expressed in the referendum held on November 7th.'

However, there appeared to be little chance of that happening, as a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed.

Speaking on Friday, he announced that: 'There are real issues which cannot be run away from, and they have to be discussed with the people of Gibraltar and with the Spanish...I don't think the referendum told us anything we didn't know.'

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