The attitude of our free and fearless press towards the EU is to seek constantly to frame any move, any statement, any approach from its institutions as a hostile gesture. Hence the constant claims of intransigence, bullying, and of course the lack of respect which we Brits should be given because, well, we’re British, dammit!
Add in a particularly sensitive subject - like, oh I dunno, Gibraltar - and the risk of righteous hacks spontaneously combusting with rage becomes all too real. It was ceded to us at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 IN PERPETUITY! Don’t these ghastly garlic crunching foreigners have any sense of history? Well, given many of them were rather closer to World War 2 and the succeeding Cold War, maybe they do. But this is for home consumption only.
So what has set them off this time? As the BBC has reported, “The UK has objected to Gibraltar being described as a ‘colony’ in European Union legislation allowing UK nationals to travel to the EU after Brexit. The EU proposed allowing visa-free travel for Britons in November. The Spanish government has since insisted a footnote be added describing Gibraltar as a ‘colony’ and referring to ‘controversy’ over its status”.
Britain’s ambassador to the EU has raised an objection to the description. But the more rabid part of the press has gone further, with the Express putting its rant on the front page: “HOW DARE YOU! EU INSULTS ‘COLONY’ GIBRALTAR … No 10 condemns Eurocrats trying to ‘irritate the hell out of Britain’ in Brexit war of words”.
The Murdoch Sun has also gone full screaming indignation: “BRITAIN risked a full blown diplomatic row with Spain - blasting its ‘inappropriate’ bid to use EU law to brand Gibraltar a COLONY … The UK’s ambassador to Brussels confronted his Spanish counterpart at a meeting in Brussels in a bitter Brexit dispute”. Like heck he did.
Tim Barrow would have trouble confronting a Chimay Rouge. He doesn’t do that sort of thing. That’s why he’s a diplomat. Still, a Government spokesman did manage “Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family … All parties should respect the people of Gibraltar’s democratic wish to be British”. Democratic wish, you say?
Strangely, the press ranters don’t talk much of the democratic wish of Gibraltarians to remain in the EU - which they did by posting a 95.9% Remain vote in the 2016 referendum. But they’re going to be removed from the EU against their will, along with the UK. Not in the Express. Not in the Sun. Probably not in any paper either.
So how might that kind of behaviour towards an isolated Overseas Territory so far from the rest of Britain, and of such divergent view on this issue, be described? There’s a word that sums it up succinctly - and that word, press people, is colonial.
Our free and fearless press might not like the term, but in this case it is spot on.
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