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The Rock was totally cut off from Spain for 13 years.
8 June 1969: Franco closes Gibraltar border
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8 June 1969: Franco closes Gibraltar border

The 4,800 Spanish workers in Gibraltar had to leave but were promised by the Franco regime that they would not suffer in any way

Debbie Bartlett

Friday, 7 June 2019, 11:16

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On 8 June 1969 Spain closed the border with Gibraltar. The decision came when General Franco was angered at the prospect of Gibraltar's new Constitution. He feared this would negatively effect Spain's sovereignty claim over the Rock, which had been ceded to Britain in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

According to the press of the time, which of course was State-controlled, the drastic decision to close the border and cut off all types of communication with Gibraltar was welcomed by the Spanish population.

There was certainly a great deal of gleeful rabble-rousing in the newspapers: the 8 June edition of SUR, for example, proclaimed that from the next day Gibraltar would be forced to halt all construction work because it would have lost its 1,500 Spanish building workers, as well as nearly 2,000 Spaniards employed in servicing ships, and it would lose a huge amount of income because of this, as well as the money spent by ships' crews in local shops. Spanish people from La Línea were also working in shops and as bakers, electricians and mechanics etc in Gibraltar.

They all had to leave before the border closed: absolutely nobody was to be allowed to cross, under any circumstances, and all communications and supplies were to be cut off.

The approximately 4,800 Spanish citizens who lost their jobs in Gibraltar were reassured by the Franco regime that they would not suffer in any way whatsoever. They would receive money for enough time to enable them to find another job in Spain, and new industries would be built in the area. Sadly, the situation was not positive for La Línea. The population gradually reduced by half, from around 80,000 to 40,000, and the economy of the area suffered greatly. There were protests and demands for the border to be reopened.

The closure tore families apart. Gibraltar turned to Morocco for labour and food, and strengthened its ties with the UK. The closure also shaped Gibraltarians'sense of identity as a people. Franco's attempt to bring Gibraltar to its knees failed. It survived.

After 13 difficult years, the border reopened for pedestrians on 15 December 1982, and fully on 5 Februrary 1985, as a prerequisite for Spain joining the EC.

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