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Tuesday 6 August 2013

Gibraltar – So What Are You Going To Do?

[Update at end of post]

Those suggesting it is only the Spanish Government that does not think kindly of Gibraltar have never visited the area. I plead some knowledge here: many years ago, when the border was open and people and goods moved freely between the Rock and the border town of La Linea de la Conceptión, I travelled there via Algecíras, with the last lap on an elderly bendy bus.
The driver was, during the run over to La Linea, chatting with another of the locals. Little could be discerned from the conversation, except for the driver emphasising “Ingles ... Hibraltar ... ptui!” as he spat out his contempt for Gibraltar Air Day, ostensibly the annual air display, but in reality, with a resident population of only 30,000, an excuse for the Brits to stick two fingers up at Johnny Foreigner.

All of which is to point out that provocation in this area is not solely down to the machinations of whoever is in power in Madrid. Yes, Mariano Rajoy is in deep trouble right now, but the idea that Gibraltar is a re-run of the Galtieri Junta in Argentina and the Falkland Islands is complete crap – not that this has deterred those parts of the Fourth Estate that have chosen this theme.

The Spanish government, in dire economic straits, has sought to distract its population by pointlessly reheating an old grievance over Gibraltar” protests the Maily Telegraph, concluding conveniently that “Britain is clearly in the right”, a sentiment that their hacks would be best advised not to pitch in earshot of any of the local Spanish fishermen.

Britain must remain a rock to Gibraltar” thunders the Daily Mail, telling “Mired in corruption, facing economic meltdown, the Spanish Government plays its age-old trick to distract attention from problems at home: rattling its sabre against the people of Gibraltar, who have been British for 300 years”. So they aren’t looking at the dispute in the round, either.

And the biscuit is well and truly taken by the Express: “Gibraltar's war of words with Spain: Where is the EU?” screams the headline. Yes, the paper that wants nothing to do with the EU now wants the EU to intervene. That the Governments in London and Madrid are more than capable of resolving the dispute is beyond Dirty Des’ hacks, as is the status of Gibraltar.

If the EU stands for anything it is surely the free movement of people and goods across the borders of member states” it protests, somehow forgetting that (a) the UK has not signed up to Schengen, and (b) Gibraltar is not part of the EU customs union. And all the frothing hacks forget that there are a million UK citizens living in Spain. That number, press people, is rather larger than 30,000.

So we can forget sending that gunboat, and leave it to the diplomats to sort out.

[UPDATE 1600 hours: into the Gibraltar argument has come Dan, Dan the Oratory Man, with his customary level of veracity. Hannan admits that much of the territory's growth comes from "shipping, financial services and online gaming", while not telling his readers that this is because it has set itself up as an offshore tax haven.

Then he tells that "Thousands of Spanish citizens cross the line every day to work in Gibraltar". Yes Dan, just like the thousands who used to work for the MoD. La Linea did not just spring up overnight, but that does not, as he suggests, mean the locals on the Spanish side think the whole thing is some kind of bountiful blessing on their otherwise benighted land.

Hannan also trowels on his love of Spain, and that he has visited fifteen of the country's seventeen regions. This all-encompassing knowledge, though, did not prevent him from urging expat Brits to cast their Euro-votes for a party called Alternativa Española (AE) at the last European Parliament elections.

AE turned out to be a party headed by a Franco apologist, and Hannan hurriedly withdrew his endorsement. So perhaps that store of knowledge about Spain is not quite what he makes it out to be]

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