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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent