- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Hopefully William Hague has been brushing up on his Spanish. In addition to rising tensions with Argentina over the Falklands, the British government may soon face a challenge from Spain over its claim to Gibraltar:
Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s new centre-right Prime Minister, meanwhile, is to demand talks over the future of the colony without the involvement of authorities in Gibraltar.
His call marks a hardening of Madrid’s position over its controversial claim for the return of the Rock. Under the previous Socialist Spanish government, the authorities in Gibraltar had been included in three-way talks with Madrid and London.
Madrid was unimpressed after Mr Cameron told a meeting at the Council of Europe last week that the future of Gibraltar depended on the wishes of the colony’s 30,000 inhabitants.
Questioned by Spanish MEPs, Mr Cameron said that Britain backed the Rock’s right to self-determination and that going against the wishes of its people would amount to "recolonisation".
In response, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, the new Spanish Foreign Minister, wrote to William Hague, his diplomatic counterpart, stressing that there was no mention of auto-determination in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. Spanish diplomatic sources insisted that Mr Garcia-Margallo’s letter was "not in the tone of a protest". But Mr Garcia-Margallo called on Mr Hague to explain the British stance regarding the Rock.
Cameron and Hague probably wish they could spend their time on more crucial issues than defending Britain’s remaining island outposts for the crown, but this sort of thing can be a slippery slope. Even Scotland’s looking a bit dicey these day.