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Turning up the Heat in Gibraltar

With British-Argentine tensions escalating in the South Atlantic over the barren Falkland Islands, many observers, Via Meadia included, have predicted a similar confrontation over Gibraltar, Britain’s other controversial possession. Now this very scenario appears to be playing out, as Gibraltar’s new Chief Minister had scarcely ascended to his chair when Spain intensified its claim to the tiny peninsula—which, like the Falklands, happens to be full of people happy to remain British citizens. Spain’s new Conservative PM, however, is attempting to cut Gibraltar out of tripartite negotiations with Britain over the future of the territory, much to the chagrin of residents.

Many may be surprised by the sudden interest in a centuries-old dispute between (mostly) friendly countries, but the timing is hardly surprising. Indeed, both David Cameron and Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy have much to gain from the conflict, which promises to distract from faltering economies and stubborn high unemployment (youth unemployment in Spain recently topped 50 percent). The confrontation also promises to stir up nationalist sentiment in both countries, benefiting the Tories in England and helping the Spanish government rein in restless regions.

Gibraltar has remained under British rule for nearly 300 years, and this is not likely to change anytime soon. As long as the Britons and the Spaniards find it useful, however, the dispute is not going anywhere.

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  • dearieme

    Gibraltar has been British longer than it was ever Spanish. If it is to “go back” to anyone, it should be toMorocco. But the residents are even less likely to vote for that.

    (Why the Spanish can’t just buy the vote of the residents beats me. It’s not as if there are many of them.)

  • Freddy Hill

    Let’s not be silly. Very few people in Spain give a damn about Gibraltar or its inhabitants. Very few people in Britain do either. This “confrontation” will hardly register in the politics of either country.

    The whole thing is quite simple. Whenever the ruling party in Spain is center-right, Spain asserts its rights under the Utrecht treaty (which regulates the status of Gibraltar). This simply says that Britain owns Gibraltar in perpetuity, but if it ever chooses to relinquish ownership, possession reverts back to Spain. It’s just, so to speak, a real state contract where the “tenants” of the property don’t count. That’s all the new Spanish government asserts, just like previous democratic Conservative governments. Nothing new here. If anything, Spain is the party that defends the status quo against the occasional noise Britain makes to change it by granting independence to Gibraltar.

    On the other hand, all of this is enormously important for the residents of Gibraltar, whose income comes in no small part from smuggling mostly tobacco, but also less innocent merchandise, into the European Union. This would dry up if Gibraltar reverted to Spain.

    I have always thought that Gibraltar should be like Monaco. It already is in many ways, just seedier.

  • Cunctator

    Argentina and now Spain. Is this somehow related to a sudden upsurge of machismo? What’s next? — is Madrid going to lay claim to Belgium (Spanish Netherlands), Guam or the Philippines? Really, one can’t take those two countries very seriously. They can barely govern themselves successfully and now want to own other peoples’ lands as well.

    Gilbraltar – 299 years as a British possession to be exact. Perhaps the Cameron government will want to rethink some of the draconian cuts they have recently inflicted on the armed forces.

  • Ari Tai

    Has Spain offered to return to Morocco its holdings on the other side of the Strait?

  • Jim,MtnViewCA,USA

    “Has Spain offered to return to Morocco its holdings on the other side of the Strait?”
    Actually, I think there were noises a few years back…I would not elevate them to the level of “talks”.
    The result was a rush of small boats full of people escaping to Spain.

  • Jim.

    Speaking of Monaco, shouldn’t it, by rights, be returned to the Celts who were brutally (and unjustly) pushed out by the Romans a while back?

  • Mark

    The Brits have not been reticent to cede empire where the people there no longer want them. The only time they hang on to their colonial past is where they are wanted. By invitation only you might say.

    Gibraltarians plainly dont want Spain, and clearly wish to remain British, albeit independently and democratically governed in a civil capacity. Furthermore Spain has simply not shown themselves grown up enough to persuade the population, displaying arrogance andcallous behaviour even in their recent democratic EU history. They are not ready or deserving in their quest to regain this quirky and unique pocket sized strategically important penninsular.

  • Soberanist

    You are understimating way too much the capabilities of Spain. It really has a solid case and it can put it forward anytime, in fact what we are witnessing now are just the first steps in the right direction. You can put it however you want, but the truth is Gibraltar is untenable without Spain’s good will. And that good will might soon be over if Spain’s sees his rights over the territory ignored. Shall I recall the Brussel’s Declaration? I know the UN is an useless body for many of you, but it continously deny the right of self-determination to the implanted population of the area. The UK will have to come to terms one day, and that day is not as far as you think. Just let go the square head bull dog wannabe Eton boy and you will see how the panorama changes rapidly. Remember 2002.

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