*Speech delivered at the UN decolonisation committee

by Dennis Matthews on behalf of the SDGG

Madame Chair, the Gibraltar that was ceded in perpetuity by Spain to Great Britain over 300 years ago under the Treaty of Utrecht does not exist. I repeat, it does not exist. 

That Gibraltar was a village of about 5,000 inhabitants. Today, Gibraltar is a thriving, cosmopolitan and culturally diverse city of over 32,000 inhabitants which has reached its present state through the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors.

Men and women who have lived and laboured in our land and are buried there. Brave people who gave up their liberties and lives to fight in two World Wars.

Steadfast and resolute generations that returned to their Gibraltar home after having been evacuated; only to have to endure a political siege laid by Spain culminating in a closed frontier


Madame Chair, for Spain to want the sovereignty of Gibraltar handed back to them after more than 300 years is quite simply ridiculous.

There are a good number of prominent, well-informed Spaniards who accept that Spain’s claim has no merit and, in some cases, have gone so far as to advise successive Spanish Governments that the claim to Gibraltar is flawed and that, if taken to an International Court, the right of the Gibraltarians to determine their own future would prevail. This is, of course, why Spain consistently rejects any proposal to take Gibraltar’s right to Self Determination to an International Court.

The incongruity of Spain’s position has been recently demonstrated when the current Government of Spain has agreed a tax treaty with Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar wherein, at the very least indirectly, it is recognising the legal existence of Gibraltarian institutions.

Spain cannot be allowed to rely on certain principles when it suits them (as under the treaty because they get their hands on more taxes) but to then disregard the same principles when they do not like them (because accepting them defeats their anachronistic and outdated claim).

Spain nevertheless likes to use Gibraltar as a smokescreen for its many internal problems.

Its attitude towards Gibraltar has recently been demonstrated in the Brexit negotiations.

They used all their political leverage within the European Union to ensure Gibraltar was referred to as a colony in one of the Brexit documents. They did this without regard for the difficulties it created to the Brexit negotiation process and ignoring heavy criticism from various Member States.

Spain had no compunction in pursing their outdated claim even if it meant derailing Brexit negotiations. That is how obstinate and spiteful this so called democratic country is.

Madame Chair, the discourse of the Spanish delegation present here today must therefore be considered in light of how they behave towards Gibraltar.

Put bluntly, Spain simply cannot be trusted.

It is not a country that makes a proposal in good will or seeks an amicable solution to an issue.

It is a bully who, still rotten by fascist tendencies, seeks to coerce and force its will on a people against their democratically expressed wishes.

This is the Spain that appears before this Committee trying to make it seem it is extending an olive branch when in fact it is offering a poisoned apple.

If Spain seeks to extend the hand of honest friendship to Gibraltar, whilst respecting our wishes, we will grasp it. We do not seek confrontation, nor do we want to create issues where there are none. We would be happy to be able to live in harmony with our neighbours.


So do not for one moment consider the people of Gibraltar to be the difficult ones. We are not the problem. We do not want to fight. We are not secessionists. We simply seek respect for our democratically expressed wishes.

But let us be clear that, if there is no respect for the wishes and aspirations of the people of Gibraltar, we will never cease in our staunch defence of our right to self-determination.

We will never weaken in our resolve.

Because successive generations of Gibraltarians have endured many hardships and their sacrifices can never be in vain. Because Gibraltar has been built on the shoulders of those who faced the burdens of an oppressive dictator and that building can never fall. But, most of all, because our children must grow up with the privilege of being able to be the sole arbiters of their destiny.