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Leavers brazenly deflect blame over Gibraltar

by Hugo Dixon | 03.04.2017

Many of Gibraltar’s most vociferous supporters in Parliament were out there campaigning for Leave in the referendum. As David Hannay wrote in InFacts two weeks ago: “Either they did not know what they were doing when they threw Gibraltar under the wheels of that infamous battle bus; or they did know, in which case their disloyalty is truly shameful.”

Now the Brexiters are sabre-rattling to cover up their responsibility for the difficulty the Rock finds itself in. These diversionary tactics may be an effective way of playing the blame game, but they will not advance the interests of the people of Gibraltar or those of the UK more generally.

The European Council’s draft guidelines for the Brexit negotiations said: “After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.”

Although this was a provocation, Gibraltar has only been turned into a potential bargaining chip because of Brexit.

This was predictable. Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, sounded the alarm in  February 2016 about the damage quitting the EU could do to the Rock. He wrote that: “After the 1969-1985 closure of border access by Spain’s General Franco, the EU has mostly meant fluidity and shared prosperity.”

Where were the Brexiters then?

What’s more, does Michael Howard, the pro-Leave former Tory leader, really think that threatening Spain with war, as he did yesterday, is the best way to help Gibraltar’s citizens?

Of course, if Madrid was planning to invade the Rock, we would defend it. But what’s on the table is something totally different: that Spain might veto a future trade deal between the EU and the UK which included Gibraltar. Would we really respond to that with “crippling” military attacks, as rear-admiral Chris Parry, a former director of operational capability at the Ministry of Defence, told the Express?

The rational way to help Gibraltar is by lowering not raising the temperature – as, indeed, Picardo attempted to do on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. It would also be in the UK’s wider interests to avoid a confrontation that could sink the chances of getting a good Brexit deal.

But that, of course, isn’t the Leavers’ priority. Aided by their allies in the press, they are desperate to avoid blame for anything that goes wrong.

Their behaviour over Gibraltar is the foretaste of future Brexit confrontations. Take the looming battle over whether we will have to pay as much as £50 billion when we quit the EU. Will Brexiters say: “Sorry, we lied when we said we’d be getting back £350 million a week”? No chance. They will, instead, accuse Brussels of being beastly. Ditto if we end up crashing out of the EU without a deal, with dire consequences.

The terrible thing is that such blame-diversion tactics are likely to work. Unless pro-Europeans do a far better job of getting their message out, the knee-jerk instinct of the British people will be to rally round their government and stand up to Johnny Foreigner.

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    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    12 Responses to “Leavers brazenly deflect blame over Gibraltar”

    • Just days after the triggering Article 50 and these stupid morons are already threatening war against one of our European neighbours and friends. What arrant nonsense don’t these people know that one of the main principles of the EU is to prevent the carnage and waste of war between Western European nations. I despair, I really do.

      • If “EU is to prevent the carnage and waste of war between Western European nations” (and I do believe it), then leaving the EU makes sense for warmongers and jingoists.
        Even more so, trying to destroy it.

        • Apart from the issues of what this sort of threat is going to do to Britain’s chances of getting any sort of Brexit deal, there’s the small matter that Britain’s armed forces are now more form than substance. The Colonel (and Admiral) Blimps now harrumphing about sending in the gunboats might like to explain just what they’re proposing to send to Gibraltar. Sky rockets and milk bottles to launch them from?? When the UK sent aircraft to “help” the US efforts in Syria they could only come up with a couple of forty year old airframes. The British Army was humiliated in Afghanistan; they’re no use either.

          Britain nowadays has nice uniforms and can still do quite a good parade (with suitable notice). That’s all. It’s more Ruritania than Gloriana.

          When the banks leave, as I’m sure they will (trading in the euro is the reason for a presence in Europe, not trading in Sterling) they’ll take their contributions to the British exchequer with them. The AP reported that the tax take from the banks exceeds Britain’s defence budget.

          Britain is now little more than the principle of a great power, and rattling a rusting sabre in its scabbard merely serves to draw attention to the country’s reduced circumstances. It’s more shaming than anything. There’s now probably more threat from the Swiss Navy than the Royal Navy, Theresa May. Give the silly posturing up before you make a total fool of yourself.

    • ‘Of course, if Madrid was planning to invade the Rock, we would defend it. But what’s on the table is something totally different: that Spain might veto a future trade deal between the EU and the UK which included Gibraltar.’

      Come off it – that’s a distinction without a difference.

      Does anyone raise the question of the EU’s land border in Africa through Spain’s overseas territories of Ceuta and Melilla on the mainland of Africa? Why should sauce for Spain in Ceuta and Melilla not be sauce for the UK in Gibraltar?

      Spain’s attitude is contradictory -a Spanish version of having one’s tortilla and eating it.

      • actually, it’s only your ignorance that show off, Margot (like your posts about blaming the EU for not giving in to Cameron’s blackmail negotiations)

        1) Spain didn’t threaten to attack or invade Gibraltar, unlike senior UK politicians and commentators have threatened to attack or bomb Spain.
        all it said, is that any future trade deals between the UK and the EU will be subject to a veto by Spain for any parts regarding Gibraltar.

        2) because after all, Gibraltar is not UK soil. it’s an autonomous territory under UK protection, like say Channel islands or Man or the Bahamas.
        on the other hand, Ceuta and Melilla ARE spanish soils. yes, it’s on the African continent, but that’s no different from Northern Ireland being british soil even though it’s on a different island (Ireland)
        in addition, Ceuta and Melilla have been under Spanish, and before that Wisigoth, and before that Roman and Carthaginian jurisdiction, but always considered iberian …. from way long ago.

        it’s more appropriate to consider those cities as having been “liberated” from muslim/berber conquest in the Late Renaissance period, contrary to Gibraltar, which has been “annexed” off the then Spanish Kingdom (and Britain has got nothing to do with Iberian peninsula by your logic).

        In many ways, you could compare Gibraltar with the years of english domination over the city of Calais. That didn’t prevent the french from reclaiming it over time.

        now, one can discuss the legitimacy of history when it pertains to the rights of PRESENT people, but Brexiteers know bugger all when they equate Gibraltar and Ceuta (or Melilla).
        plus, they only seem to care when it offers them some jingo chest-thumping exercise to lay on Johnny Foreigner

        • Gibralter has been British longer than it was Spanish. It was ceded (not annexed) to the British in the early 1700’s by Spain. So, not sure where you are taking Margot with your meandering walk around the facts?
          PS, Gibralter was also liberated from the Moors (Muslims) by the Spanish…. go figure that one….in your logic…..

    • Spain has every right to adopt more rigorous immigration and customs checks. After all, the UK (on behalf of Gibraltar) has said it wants less co-operation in Europe.
      So, the situation for the population of Gibraltar, would be like one for the people of the Isle of Wight having to go through customs and immigration checks at Southampton. After all, a very large number of Gibraltarians go backwards and forwards to Spain on a daily basis. They have been well and truly dropped in it.
      I wonder how many of the people voting Brexit would be happy going through immigration control twice daily. The Government probably forgot about this in its rush to trigger Art. 50 without discussion or debate.

    • INFACTS = Don’t tell us – tell them !!
      I receive your messages every day. I’m not a leaver so you are preaching to the converted. You really do need to direct all this at those who voted to leave but now are teetering on the brink of remain. And, for heaven’s sake, find some way of silencing the nazi press!!

    • Michael Howard said Theresa May would show the same ‘resolve’ in relation to Gibraltar as Margaret Thatcher did with The Falkland Islands, not that we w o u l d go to war with Spain over Gibraltar. In the same way,the sign on the battle bus said ‘We send £350 million a week to the EU, let’s fund the NHS instead’ not, we will spend that £350 million on the NHS. Let’s not spoil a good story for the same of the truth and I thought it was those who voted leave that were supposed to be ill educated morons.

      • In terms of not spoiling a good story for the sake of the truth – how about you start the ball rolling by not continuing to quote the figure of £350 million a week as being the amount we send to the EU. It’s not and never has been. We Remainers are apparently not all as well educated as you, but at least we are capable of acknowledging expert opinion, basic maths and facts.