Spanish officials lose no time to restate that Spain wants to demote Gibraltar's presence at talks to that of a municipality. Effectively they are saying that the much trumpeted trilateral forum is dead and buried.
There can be two flags or four flags, but not three flags - those of Britain, Spain and Gibraltar.
By two flags they mean those of Britain and Spain. By four flags they mean those of Britain and Spain, plus the flag of Gibraltar at a par with that of La Linea or some other part of the Campo area.
Although the Spanish Government agreed formally that Gibraltar be given equal status to Britain and Spain when the trilateral forum was first constituted, the present PP government in Spain is dead against it.
Spanish foreign minister Sr Margallo was saying in a newspaper interview at the weekend that what they want is a four-sided forum integrated by Spain and the UK, on the one side, and 'the authorities of the Rock and the Campo on the other.'
Nothing could be clearer than that! It means that Spain takes the view that Gibraltar can discuss with the Campo the problems that, they say, affect Spanish workers here, and the like, but important issues are for Britain and Spain only.
Relegating Gibraltar to such lowly levels has always been unacceptable in Gibraltar, even if certain elements in the Foreign Office, forever eager to have a trouble-free time in Spain, like to urge the incumbent at No.6 to adopt what has been seen by chief ministers as an undignified stance.
Those elements in the Foreign Office, who seem to enjoy supporting foreigners and not loyal British people, were exposed at the time of the Falklands war by sending the wrong signals to the claimants of that territory to the extent that they encouraged an invasion by Argentina which must have cost the British exchequer more than keeping the Falklands British! Not to mention the number of people who met their deaths by the conflict.
In the case of Gibraltar, the preamble to the Constitution was not seen as a barrier to engage Spain in formal joint sovereignty negotiations. Gibraltar's position may now have been strengthened by the assurance that no talks will be held with Spain that Gibraltarians are against. But some people ask: what is such an assurance worth?