Territorial disputes: Gibraltar (Part 3) [Post 33]

What do Gibraltarians want?

Gibraltar as a territorial dispute has many issues at stake. Potentially, many remedies could apply. The previous posts presented brief background information and a few views that included references to law and politics, the European Union, NATO, natural resources, defense, and many others.

Post 31: Territorial disputes: Gibraltar (Part 1)

Post 32: Territorial disputes: Gibraltar (Part 2)

Today’s post centers the attention of one of these parties: people. What do Gibraltarians want?

Several documents give us a clear idea of what Gibraltarians want. The 1967 and 2002 referendums made evident Gibraltarians want to remain under British sovereignty. Yet, in 2016, the Gibraltarians made explicit their wishes to remain in the European Union. Information about each of these cases below.

The 2002 Referendum in Gibraltar

The question:”On the 12th July 2002 the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in a formal statement in the House of Commons, said that after twelve months of negotiation the British Government and Spain are in broad agreement on many of the principles that should underpin a lasting settlement of Spain’s sovereignty claim, which included the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar.Do you approve of the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar?YES/NO”The results: the no vote was 98.9 percent, with 17,900 no ballots cast, 187 yes votes and 72 blank votes.
Document available at:

Referendum Gibraltar 2002 (the question)

The 1967 Referendum in Gibraltar

Gibraltarians had two choices:“(a) To pass under Spanish sovereignty in accordance with the terms proposed by the Spanish Government to Her Majesty’s Government on 18 May 1966; or(b) Voluntarily retain their link with Britain, with democratic local institutions and with Britain retaining its present responsibilities.”The results: turnout of 95.8%, 12,237 cast their vote, of which 12,138 voted for Britain and only 44 for Spain, with 55 spoiled ballot papers.
More information available at Gibraltar… the unofficial homepage

Brexit and the 2016 Referendum in Gibraltar

On 23 June 2016, people across the United Kingdom and Gibraltar voted in a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Gibraltar was included in the South West electoral region.
The question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?Remain a member of the European UnionLeave the European Union

The results:

  • Remain: 19,322
  • Leave: 823
  • Electorate: 24,119
  • Verified Ballot Papers: 20,172
  • Turnout: 83.7%
  • Ballot Papers Counted : 20,172
  • Valid Votes: 20,145
  • Rejected Ballots: 27

More information at

UK Electoral Commission (Gibraltar)
UK Electoral Commission (The 2016 EU Referendum)
Complete results available at
UK Electoral Commission (EU Referendum results)
Details about the EU Referendum question available at
UK Electoral Commission (EU Referendum question assessment)

With this in mind, and to conclude today’s post, Augusto Conte de los Ríos writes in 2017 (my translation):

For now it is early to know what the future will bring, but the first movements, as in chess, are decisive, and Spain has begun to move the pawns. The draft guidelines for negotiation between the EU and the United Kingdom referred by Donald Tusk (note 25 in the original) not only ignored completely the possibility that Gibraltar had a special, unique status in the future, as requested by Fabián Picardo, but that the European Council gives, de facto, veto power over the future of the Rock to Spain (Brzenczek, 2016).”
Complete article (in Spanish) available at GIBRALTAR: DEL TRATADO DE UTRECHT AL BREXIT

NOTE: This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty: International Law and Politics,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020 (forthcoming)Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.

NEXT POST: Gibraltar, same facts interpreted differently by the media.

Wednesday 06th November 2019

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701


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