Richard North, 03/08/2004  

Telegraph readers will have already noted this morning's story headed "Heath was ready to give Madrid sovereignty over the Rock", detailing how Ted Heath's Tory government was in 1973 prepared to hand Gibraltar over to the Spanish in a deal with General Franco's regime.

But what is really chilling about the story – if the betrayal of the Gibraltarians is not enough – is the blithe assumption at the time that, within ten years, the European Community would have become a "political and defence union". That was certainly the hope expressed by Alan Goodison, head of the Foreign Office's southern European department, who wrote as much in a note to then foreign minister Julian Amery.

This was seen as the ultimate resolution to the Gibraltar problem, with Goodison opining, "We hope that within 10 years the European Community will become a political and defence union. When that time comes Gibraltar will be neither British nor Spanish. It will be European."

One is always cautious to avoid falling into the trap of taking a conspiratorial view of history, but it has to be said that in no way was the British public at the time appraised of the ambitions of their masters. Furthermore, it is fair to say that the idea of a political and defence unions would have been an anathema to the majority of the population, and still is.

Yet, despite the lack of enthusiasm for either project – and the total absence of any democratic mandate – it is also true to say that these ambitions remain undiminished amongst many of the ruling elite. And, in many important ways, they are that much closer to their goals, despite still being without any democratic mandate.

When we have successive governments, therefore, pursuing agendas which are neither fully declared, nor have the approval of their people, is it any wonder that there is disillusionment with the political process, and a lack of trust?

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