It’s quite incredible how we’ve gone from an Article 50 letter that makes scant reference to Gibraltar to a Tory Brexiteer suggesting that Theresa May would show the same attitude to the British territory as Margaret Thatcher did to the Falklands. Seriously.
This isn’t just some random right-wing Tory cheerleader. It’s a former Leader of the Opposition, for goodness’ sake. Michael Howard told Sophy Ridge, according to the Guardian:
Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman prime minister sent a taskforce halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country, and I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar.
Tim Farron had this to say:
It is unbelievable that within a week of triggering Article 50 there are Conservatives already discussing potential wars with our European neighbours.
In only a few days the Conservative-right are turning long term allies into potential enemies. I hope this isn’t a sign of the Government’s approach to the long negotiations to come
Brexiteers have gone from cheering to sabre rattling for war in four days, it is absolutely ludicrous.
Paddy Ashdown said on Twitter:
Howard threatens war over Gibraltar: The EU has prevented war in Europe for 60 years. 4 days after we say we’re off, we threaten it again!😟
— Paddy Ashdown (@paddyashdown) April 2, 2017
I am old enough to remember when the border between Gibraltar and Spain was closed and what that meant for people on either side of it. Both countries being in the EU had enabled a mutually agreeable solution, an open border and 10,000 citizens of Gibraltar now working in Spain. The family and social ties forged during the last three decades of free travel are now as much as threat as the economic ones.
A recent House of Lords report on the impact of Brexit and Gibraltar emphasised the importance of being at the very least part of the single market:
While Gibraltar’s most important economic relationship is with the UK itself, any loss of access to the Single Market in services, or to its cross-border workforce, could significantly harm Gibraltar’s economy. There could also be a corresponding impact on the economy of the neighbouring region of Spain.
It is still uncertain how far these consequences will be realised following Brexit. Much will depend on the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU and on Spain’s reaction during and after withdrawal.
The Tories’ attitude to Gibraltar is as contradictory as their attitude to Scotland. They say they favour unions which they have done more than anyone else to jeopardise
If they had chosen to go for being part of the single market, we wouldn’t have Gibraltar’s future threatened and we wouldn’t have the UK’s future threatened.
Update: The Cleggster had a wee revelation of another favour he did us all in coalition:
I vetoed Cons proposal during Coalition to make Michael Howard EU Commissioner. Looks like we all had a lucky escape!
— Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg) April 2, 2017