News24

No change in UK position on Gibraltar

2010-06-11 20:25

Madrid - British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Friday there will be no change in Britain's position on Gibraltar under his government - even if it is unpopular with the family of his Spanish wife.

"I need to be absolutely clear on this. This government will never accept a change in the status of Gibraltar unless that change is approved by Gibraltarians themselves," he told an economic conference in Madrid.

"I know from my in-laws that this is not a popular position in Spain but it is the view of the previous government and it is the view we share," he added.

Clegg - who speaks five languages - made his opening remarks to the conference in fluent Spanish before quickly switching to English.

He met his lawyer wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, the daughter of a former Spanish senator who specialises in trade law, while they were both studying in Belgium. They wed in 2000 and have three sons, Antonio, Alberto and Miguel.

Clegg's centrist Liberal Democrat party last month formed Britain's first coalition government since World War II with Prime Minister David Cameron's centre-right Conservative party.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. London has long said it will not renounce sovereignty against the wishes of Gibraltarians.

Now a haven for tourism, shipping and offshore banking because of its favourable tax laws, Gilbraltar's inhabitants overwhelmingly rejected an Anglo-Spanish proposal for co-sovereignty in a 2002 referendum.

The 6.5-square-kilometre territory on the southern tip of Spain at the strategic western entrance to the Mediterranean has long been a source of tension between London and Madrid.