Thursday, 8 August 2013

Time For Spain To Grow Up

Expressing a position only ever articulated on the Left where mainland British parties, rather than newspapers, are concerned, James Hallwood writes:

The rekindling of the dispute over Gibraltar is a big step backwards after the progress made by Spain’s previous socialist government’s growing acceptance of Gibraltar’s independence.

At a time when Spain faces record unemployment levels, exceeding 25 per cent, it is depressingly unsurprising that the government should opt for an irredentist approach to Gibraltar so as to divert public anger.

I have written previously on how President Kirchner has used the Falklands to try and distract Argentinians from the country’s economic woes.

Meanwhile far-right parties in Europe spur on irredentist nationalism. Jobbik advocate a ‘Greater Hungary‘ and Golden Dawn call for the liberation of southern Albania

A basic reading of 20th century history reminds us how potent a mix economic uncertainty and irredentism can be.

While Spain is far from the extreme fringes of expansionist nationalism, it is nevertheless unfortunate that time and time again the people of Gibraltar are subject to delegitimisation, isolation, and burdens placed on them by Madrid.

For forty years the border with Spain was closed after the fascist dictator, Franco, reasserted Spain’s claims over the Rock.

Since then Gibraltarians have had their territory violated by the Spanish air force and navy, challenges placed to their right to vote in EU elections, opposition to joining UEFA , excessive border checks, and now threats to charge a fee for crossing the border and the preventing of flights to Gibraltar from using Spanish airspace.

Gibraltar has been British since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, a treaty recognised in international law.

Even if one questions Britain’s actions in the War of Spanish Succession, bear in mind that southern Spain wasn’t ‘Spanish’ until the Reconquista – a process that led to the forced assimilation and inquisition of the Moorish and Jewish inhabitants.

If it seems hypocritical of Spain to question Gibraltar’s independence on that basis, then how much more inconsistent is it that Spain currently occupies Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco – despite the fact Morocco claims them?

We must respect that the majority of the inhabitants are Spanish and for that reason Spain, rightly, refuses to negotiate their freedom away – but why does Spain continue to insist that the future of Gibraltar does not concern the Gibraltarians and is simply a bilateral issue?

Referendums held in 1967 and 2007 showed 99.64 per cent in favour of British sovereignty and 98.48 per cent against dual sovereignty, respectively.

The British government has now refused to negotiate on the future of Gibraltar without the permission of the inhabitants.

In 2000, Gibraltar issued a statement that called for ‘neighbourly relations with Spain’ and, crucially, that ‘Gibraltar is neither Spain’s to claim nor Britain’s to give away’.

The Socialist Labour Party is the governing party of Gibraltar – one of three major parties – none of which advocate any change from the status quo.

Spain on the other hand has separatist movements in seven regions, a protracted conflict in the Basque Country and a growing push for independence in Catalonia – with a million taking to the streets calling for secession.

Does Spain really need another territory that doesn’t want to be Spanish?

This year marks 300 years of British rule in Gibraltar – a cause of celebration across the Rock.

With this anniversary in mind, it is time for Spain to grow-up and accept the will of the people of Gibraltar.


  1. "only ever articulated by the Left".

    Then you haven't been reading very much.

    On another issue, UKIP's repeated suggestion that we should have a collective Overseas Territories MP, or one for each, is a great one.

  2. To save Gibraltar, we should do what UKIP have long advocated (below).

  3. Cont...

    Nigel Farage points out in that piece that Britain lost Malta partly because we once refused to give them an MP-a worrying omen, if we don't do something about our other Territories.

  4. Spain has a complicated but semi-valid legal case which you should address.

    When English forces (this was pre-Union) seized the Rock, they were fighting on behalf of a claimant to the Spanish throne. The place was never incorporated into the UK, in the manner of Ceuta and Mellila being incorporated into Spain, because the justification was that the British were holding territory on behalf of the legitimate (Hapsburg) King of Spain.

    This justification vanishes if the U.K. recognizes the Bourbon dynasty as the legitimate Spanish dynasty. And the population is really too small for the self-determination argument to carry much weight.

    Strategically, it would be important to hold Gibraltar to keep the Spanish from closing the Mediterranean to British warships.

  5. Nigel Farage pointed out that we lost Malta because we refused to allow it to have its own MP's.

    UKIP have long suggested we should welcome our Overseas Territories into the Houses of Parliament-it would bring their concerns home to us and help cement their ties to us.

    I suspect the British Establishment is scared of upsetting Spain-they were bending over backwards to say the Royal Navy visit was just a "routine patrol" this week, even as Spain continuously invades our waters.

  6. Nigel Farage can say whatever he likes.

    But if we must, he obviously knows nothing about the British Overseas Territories, or else he would know that only Gibraltar could possibly have such a thing, and even then only if she wanted one, which none of the others ever would, anyway.

    The other side in Malta boycotted the referendum on incorporation into the United Kingdom, thereby effectively rendering the result meaningless. Still, it is interesting to ponder what Britain would have been like with Maltese MPs, as it is to ponder what Britain would have been like with a hundred Irish MPs.

    Ed, if the Falkland Islanders are sufficiently numerous to exercise self-determination, then absolutely anyone is.

  7. Absolute nonsense-we could easily have an MP for the Territories covering all of them.

    And Malta was only ever going to get three MP's-hardly a takeover of Parliament.

    The point was that our refusal to grant that wish, despite them voting for it, lost us Malta.

  8. It wasn't until I went to Gibraltar a few years back (to attend a wedding there) that I grasped - on speaking to local people from a variety of backgrounds - just how strong the feeling is among Gibraltarians to remain British subjects. The vehemence with which they rejected any prospect of being integrated into Spain came as a real shock to me, and one man insisted with remarkable passion that he would lay down his life to resist such a development. I had no reason either to disbelieve him or regard him as some kind of solitary crank.