It is stated in this article that:

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

This point of view appears to be UK policy, as in:

... the prime minster’s official spokesman said. “Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family and has a mature and modern constitutional relationship with the UK."

Spain however, seems to hold the position that

... Gibraltar was disputed and on a UN list of “non-self-governing territories … subject to decolonisation”.

What is the basis of this difference of understanding?

Note - I am not asking about this specific news article - just citing as an example of this disagreement. Since its a UK-based source, maybe there is a possibility of bias in it; but I am not endorsing a point of view by citing it. If I spoke Spanish, maybe I'd have chosen differently.

  • 5
    The British have it, the Spanish want it.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 18:45
  • 1
    Once upon a time, it was considered acceptable for a king to conquer another king's land and to keep it. That is no longer considered acceptable today, and many examples have been reversed. But there are cases where most of the current population of a formerly occupied territory want to keep the current status, and those can become grey areas.
    – o.m.
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


To give a little historical perspective, Gibraltar was lost as result of the Spanish defeat in the War of Spanish Succession in the early 1700's and is ceded to the UK in one of the numerous Treaties of Utrecht.

This interesting Wikipedia article discusses the history of the dispute of Gibraltar. One of its contentions about the Spanish point of view is that

Spain considers that such an area was occupied by the UK since the 19th century (1815), and such "occupation of the isthmus [by the United Kingdom] is illegal and against the principles of the international law". For said reason, British sovereignty is not acknowledged by Spain, considering itself instead to be owner of the territory

In general, I think the Spanish think that the UK should hand over Gibraltar as they did with Hong Kong and other lands that were part of its empire.

Based on historical experience, land occupied by a "foreigner" through war or otherwise, has always resulted in resistance to the occupier by the occupied. It would only be natural to assume a great deal of resentment on part of the Spanish for the perceived usurpation of their territory by the English.

  • 4
    Related: Ceuta. Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 20:40
  • 3
    Gibraltar and the Falklands both have populations that overwhelmingly prefer to be British, which is generally considered to count for something in terms of national self-determination.
    – pjc50
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 11:36
  • @pjc50 no question about that. The question asked why Gibraltar is disputed. I was just trying to explain what the Spanish might feel.
    – Karlomanio
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 13:54
  • 1
    @MartinSchröder I could write many of the same things that I wrote in this answer for the people of Morocco about Spain as occupiers of Ceuta and Melilla.
    – Karlomanio
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 15:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .