Gibraltar: This Rock stands in the way of our national interest

There is a case for summoning up our old colonial instincts to resolve this dispute

Share

When you learnt that Spain was operating a go-slow at the border with Gibraltar, threatening to charge €50 for crossing, and mooting a ban on Gibraltar-bound planes using Spanish air space, you probably thought: there they go again, big, clumsy Spain trying to intimidate poor little Gibraltar in vain pursuit of a 300-year-old quarrel. If you hazarded any explanation at all, you might have reasoned that the Madrid government wanted to divert Spaniards from their economic troubles, and had alighted on a flare-up over Gibraltar as a tried and tested solution.

Of course, an element of intended distraction cannot be excluded. Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, is beleaguered. But what you probably did not think to ask, and most British news outlets did not initially tell you, was that Spain was upset for a reason. Gibraltar, it turns out, was building itself an artificial reef in an attempt to increase fish stocks; Spain feared the possible effects on its own fishing grounds. 

In other words, this dispute had not come out of the blue. There was a real issue, and the British government – whose early statements neglected to say anything about fishing – must have known this. Nor was Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, as far off the mark as he seemed, when he compared Spain’s threats to the ranting of North Korea. Like Kim Jong-un – whose sabre-rattling may not have been unrelated to US joint manoeuvres with South Korea – Spain, too, had a cause for complaint that the other side had failed to mention. Being paranoid, as they say, doesn’t mean they are not out to get you. 

It is possible that this spat, like others before it, will fade away. David Cameron has expressed concern, while the Foreign Secretary has given – fairly measured – assurances about the UK’s commitment to Gibraltar’s people. But what has happened underlines that, more than 10 years after Gibraltar scuppered an agreement between Madrid and the UK’s then Labour government, the underlying dispute is as capable of souring UK-Spain relations as ever.

A deal reached in 2002 would have left Gibraltar’s administrative arrangements unchanged, while accepting the principle of shared sovereignty. It unravelled after Gibraltarians staged a general strike and refused to service British warships; it was then laid to rest in a near-unanimous referendum. The prospects then were about as good as they will get, with a pro-Europe government in London and pragmatists in Madrid. Cameron’s Euro-sceptic ills  now probably rule out any policy change on Gibraltar. 

But should the rest of us not be asking why 30,000 people should have had, and still have, a veto on a normalisation that is so unambiguously in the British national interest? And if the UK and Spain were to get along better, then Gibraltar would have it easier, too. We should summon up what remain of our colonial instincts one last time and overrule the people of the Rock – for their own good.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Services Team Leader

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a prog...

Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare high quality opportunity for a...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £50 per day: Randstad Education Group: Job opportunities for SEN Teachin...

Secondary teachers required in King's Lynn

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mark Reckless, a Tory MP, has announced he is defecting to Ukip  

Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless are heroes – and I’m lining up more of them

Nigel Farage
This Banksy mural in Clacton has been removed by the council  

Painting over the Clacton Banksy? Does nobody understand satire any more?

Rachael Jolley
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?