Former Tory leader Michael Howard was unequivocal in his response when Sky News host Sophy Ridge asked him about the status of Gibraltar. “I think that there’s no question whatever that our Government will stand by Gibraltar. 35 years ago this week. another woman Prime Minister sent a task force halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish speaking country”.
Those dastardly Spanish speakers! ¡Ay Caramba! And there was more. “And I’m absolutely certain that our current Prime Minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar”. Thus Howard showed, once again, why even after the deceit of the Iraq adventure, the electorate still preferred Tony Blair to him in 2005.
Moreover, we now know exactly how much resolve Theresa May will show in standing by the people of Gibraltar, and that is very little indeed. Because when push came to shove over the Brexit agreement, and indeed the outline agreement for Britain’s future relationship with the EU, our steely and resolute Prime Minister caved in. Totally.
This can be deduced from the text of a legal interpretation on the agreement: “After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, Gibraltar will not be included in the territorial scope of the agreements to be concluded between the Union and the United Kingdom. However, this does not preclude the possibility to have separate agreements between the Union an the United Kingdom in respect of Gibraltar”. And there is more.
“Without prejudice to the competencies of the Union and in full respect of the territorial integrity of its Member States as guaranteed by Article 4(2) of the Treaty of European Union, those separate agreements will require a prior agreement of the Kingdom of Spain” [my emphasis]. Michael Howard goofed again.
Reporting that interpretation, Alberto Nardelli of BuzzFeed confirmed “Spain got what it wanted”. Perhaps presaging what the Murdoch press will be saying tomorrow, the Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn responded “So Spain gets its veto on any future EU trade deal for Gibraltar after all - an original A50 demand. HMG opposed this for two years, but concedes defeat at the very last moment. Not an ideal look”.
And the obvious corollary was pointed out by Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato: “The change was rhetorical since Spain *and all other EU27* have power of veto over our future trading relationship with EU. As pointed out elsewhere, it could be Elgin marbles next. Etc, etc Extraordinary that even now this doesn’t seem to be clear to some MPs and journalists”. There is not merely a Spanish veto. Every EU member state has a veto.
Gibraltar, moreover, may not be the last concession. Nardelli also told “In addition to Gibraltar, draft EU27 EUCO declaration also includes a statement on fish, saying an agreement is a ‘matter of priority’, should build on ‘existing reciprocal access and quota shares’, should be negotiated ‘well before the end of the transition period’”.
So look for those fishing communities to realise, and soon, that they too have been screwed over by the Brexit process. What was that about Taking Back Control?
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