Farron on “ludicrous” Brexiteer sabre rattling over Gibraltar

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:

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:

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Apr '17 - 4:46pm

    Howard was wrong to suggest war but the Lib Dems should point out that Gibraltar wants to remain British and Spain has its own overseas territories.

  • Andrew Tampion 2nd Apr '17 - 5:05pm

    Lord Howard’s words where perhaps ill choosen but what is really ludicrous is to suggest that he is threatening war with Spain. However if Spain did seek to launch an attempt to annex Gibraltar by invading it against the wishes of it’s inhabitants then I hope and believe that our Government use all means at it’s disposal to defend the right of Gibraltar’s citizens to self determination. In the first instance by diplomacy but if necessary by force of arms.

  • Thank goodness for Tim Farron injecting some common sense into the Gibraltar issue: Tory jingoism must be called out clearly and consistently.

    Its just a pity that the Lib Dems in Scotland are not so well served. On the day that the Observer publishes an unequivocal statement from the Spanish Foreign Minister that Spain would not veto EU membership for an independent Scotland, Mr Willie Rennie lends his considerable insight, intellect and ethical politics to today’s Sunday Mail where he peddles fears and warns of Spain blocking Scotland’s membership.

    Of course the record shows that Spain never has had a plan to veto Scotland’s membership – it has made it clear all along that independence for Scotland, agreed legally in the context of the UK’s internal constitutional arrangements, would be a wholly different situation from that of Catalonia. See the well documented sources of the Spanish position laid out in detail at https://wingsoverscotland.com/spanish-non-bombs/ .

    Please Lib Dem party activists, sort out your leadership in Scotland. Are you not embarrassed enough yet?

  • Well, it was said that there was “something of the night” about Howard. I dunno is former leader of the opposition really a big deal really?

  • Peter Martin 2nd Apr '17 - 6:28pm

    Maybe someone could explain to me why Gibraltarians were given a vote in the referendum when they aren’t allowed a vote for Westminster?

    I, personally, wouldn’t be averse to giving them a vote for that too. But the quid pro quo would be that they accepted the same laws as everyone else in the UK. That would include the tax laws too. VAT at 20% Income tax at up to 45% etc etc.

    I think the residents of the Isle of Wight might well vote to be a part of Spain if they were allowed the same tax regime as Gibraltarians !

  • nvelope2003 2nd Apr '17 - 7:07pm

    Britain seized Gibraltar from Spain in the War of the Spanish Succession in1713 and was awarded it by the Treaty of Utrecht 1715. I wonder how the British would feel if Folkestone or Portsmouth had been awarded to Spain in 1713. Just asking – no abuse please.

  • The EU want £60 billion from the UK before they will talk to us about trade. They want to share the information we get from GCHQ, but don’t want it as part of the brexit talks. Presumably because they want the UK to pay for their security. Now we hear there will be no trade deal if Spain wants Gibraltar. Perhaps we should just keep our money, GCHQ information, Gibraltar and walk away. If they want to play hardball they can pay for it themselves – or perhaps they need our money. As normal I see most Lib Dems think the EU can do no wrong, even if that’s wanting to give Gibraltar to Spain against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar.

  • There needs to be no ambiguity over Gibraltar. They have similar enclaves in Morocco – 6 in fact.

  • If you are going to write about Gibraltar,get your facts right. 10,000 citizens of Gibraltar do not work in Spain. It’s the exact opposite. Gibraltar provides employment to over 10,000 EU citizens from Spain, the majority of them Spaniards who would otherwise be queing at the job centres in Andalusia with the rest of the 40% of their compatriots who are jobless. No one is suggesting going to war, but it is the EU who have handed Spain 30,000 British Gibraltarian hostages to pressure us to give up our right to self determination. What happened to the huge concern of not using EU or British citizens as bargaining chips in the negotiations? Gibraltarians don’t count?

    By the way,in answer to another comment, Gibraltarians voted in the referendum because Gibraltar joined the EU in 1973 with the rest of the UK,and as British citizens had the right to participate.

  • Allan Brame 2nd Apr '17 - 7:45pm

    @ malc ‘wanting to give Gibraltar to Spain against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar.’

    You are right: that is not good. Then neither is forcing Gibraltar out of the EU against the wishes of 96% of their people. Not that one justifies the other, but one disastrous decision may well have caused the other unacceptable consequence

  • Denis Mollison 2nd Apr '17 - 7:51pm

    @Peter Martin
    A key point – as I understand it one of Spain’s main aims is to stop or at least reduce Gibraltar’s tax haven status; on that I am with them.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 2nd Apr '17 - 8:06pm

    Ian above has a point. Rather striking that in the party’s comments a resolute commitment to Gibraltar’s sovereignty and the free choice of its citizens is conspicuous by its absence. Unfortunate, not least given the long-standing support afforded to the Lib Dems by the people of Gib.

  • @Denis Million

    Gibraltar is not a ‘tax haven’ other than in the eyes of Spain, as another stick to beat us with to persue their claim. It is white listed by the OCDE and has signed countless Tax Information exchange agreements with most of the EU countries as well as the US amongst others. Even the EU does not list Gibraltar as a tax haven. ( No doubt after Brexit ,they will ,to please their new best member). Spain refused to sign any financial information exchange agreements with Gibraltar. Our Government even wrote directly to their Finance Minister to invite him to sign such agreements and even to visit Gibraltar to review our system for themselves. They didn’t even reply. Does that sound like a country worried about a Tax Haven ?

  • http://www.lowtax.net/information/spain/spain-canary-islands-special-zone.html

    And speaking of ‘tax havens’…..Kettle meet pot.

  • The brave Brexiteers opened the box and seem confused others are using the box opening to their advantage. Why the confusion it was always going to be so. Spain wants Gibraltar, France and the rest want the city of London and all we have to stop them are Boris and co. At least at the bottom of Pandora’s box was hope at the bottom of the Brexit box their doesn’t even seem to be that. Note to Glenn you voted for it, own it, can’t be saying this isn’t my type of Brexit it was always going to be like this and you can’t say the remain side didn’t warn you.

  • Michael Berridge 2nd Apr '17 - 8:40pm

    Most of the comments I’ve read so far seem to miss the point. The point is that Michael Howard praised an armed invasion of the Falkland Islands and said it set an example for the present Government to follow. In the case of the Falklands it would have been cheaper to pay for resettlement of all the inhabitants on suitable smallholdings in Scotland, say, or New Zealand rather than fighting a war in which real people were killed.

  • @N Jones I’m afraid if Spain says it’s a tax haven that is likely to be good enough for the other members of the club, now if only we had a say in the club, ahh I forgot the brave Brexiteers gave that voice away.

  • Denis Mollison 2nd Apr '17 - 9:01pm

    @N Jones
    I was not implying anything illegal; I think tax haven is a reasonable description: –

    And from the reference you gave, it looks as though the Canary Islands are one too; I would like to see that stopped too.

  • paul holmes 2nd Apr '17 - 10:56pm

    @Michael Berridge -But your solution would have meant abrogating International Law, ignoring the clear (around 99% in every poll/Referendum) views of those who actually live in the Falklands and encouraging Dictators everywhere to believe that no one would stop them invading small weak neighbours.

    That was an approach tried, out of the best of motives by European democratic leaders shocked by the carnage of WW1, in the 1930’s. Didn’t end happily as I recall from my history books.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Apr '17 - 11:27pm

    What is ludicrous, actually a mild word, is what , Eddie Sammon, Ian MacFadyen , Nick Thornsby ,above , thankfully have shown , that assorted Liberal Democrat leaders past and present have in crtiticising Howard , for his daft comments, in which he did not actually call for war , but did overdo it, these same Liberal Democrat leaders say nothing , not only for the people of Gibralter, but against the EU officials who started all this !

    The way post referendum , the powers that be in this party at every level including on this site , have been unable ever to crtiticise the EU is looking like a cult or fan club !

    Enough already ! We expect level and fair and balanced from liberals or democrats !

    Liberty is what liberalism is about .Gibralter has freely chosen this country.

    Democracy is also what the Democrats bit of our party is about. The people of Gibralter voted that way by 96

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Apr '17 - 11:31pm

    Per cent , as Paul Holmes also shows with his sensible comments on the Falklands!

  • Paul Murray 3rd Apr '17 - 7:04am

    The recent comments from the Spanish foreign ministry suggest that this is a quid pro quo in the draft negotiation document. Spain get sovereignty of Gibraltar in exchange for not blocking EU membership by an independent Scotland.

    How on earth is the inclusion of such a provocative clause by the EU – who obviously knew it would be viewed as an infringement of British sovereignty – being characterised here as an act of aggression by the UK?

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Apr '17 - 7:19am

    “Enough already”. Well said Lorenzo.

    What about being the ‘responsible, grown up Party’? That seems to have disappeared out of the window with the arrival of ‘total attack’.

    Westminster is a micro climate and in the Commons and Lords’ Whip’s offices hysteria seems to be building daily. May I suggest something be put in the tea to calm things down?

    Just consider for one moment that we may be making mistakes.

    (It is often forgotten that immediately following the invasion of South Georgia, Thatcher hesitated, and that it was a speech my Michael Foot in the Commons on the Saturday morning, very measured, but right on the button, that pointed to the way forward. It is that kind of well thought out and well expressed intervention that I urged from our new ‘joint leadership’ a few days ago.)

  • Antony Watts 3rd Apr '17 - 8:02am

    If you want happiness and not rivalry between people, then the EU proposal and turing it into a solution is surely the best “Free movement of goods, services, capital and people
    Ever closer union between the PEOPLES of Europe”.

    Which means financial harmony as well, coordinated financial terms and levels. Not rough battles for power nation against nation. The conflict is not military, but regulatory.

  • Spain does at least have a consistent position on national self-determination. They are against it for the Basques, the Catalans, the Falkland Islanders and the Gibraltarians.

  • All this is just hot air. In the en there will be much huffing and puffing. Spain will grumble. Britain will grumble back. Gibraltar, will say what about us. The EU will say yes but, ah but, no but. Then nothing very much will happen or change. No one is going to go to war over Gibraltar, not even the Germans

  • Kieran Seale 3rd Apr '17 - 9:51am

    Brexit is a disaster for Gibraltar. The EU has gone from a protection to a weapon that can be used against them.

    Gibraltar’s position is now very vulnerable – its only land border is with a country that wants to see it destroyed. Howard talked about starting a war because, short of that, there is very little that the UK will be able to help Gibraltar in the future.

  • David Hughes 3rd Apr '17 - 9:56am

    Liberal Democrats in general — and Sir Graham Watson in particular — have an excellent record in defending the people of Gibraltar who rewarded us with some two-thirds of their votes in the 2014 euro-elections. Close contact with Gibraltar’s Liberals, including the Deputy Chief Minister, is maintained by Lib Dems in the South-West.

  • Denis Loretto 3rd Apr '17 - 10:59am

    The inclusion of comment on Gibraltar in the EU draft guidelines is strange and I wonder if it will survive in the final version. However the interpretation by Michael Howard and various posters above that it means in some way handing over Gibraltar to Spain is something of an exaggeration. The offending clause is –
    “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.”

    This is about the inclusion or otherwise of Gibraltar in a possible free trade agreement between the UK and the EU following brexit. Issues surrounding “tax haven” etc are no doubt relevant to this – who knows? Anyway is it not true that Spain will have a veto on any such trade agreement in any case?

    Tim Farron is absolutely right to call Howard’s choleric intervention ludicrous and indeed he could have said hypocritical. Did we remainers not instance Gibraltar and indeed Northern Ireland in the long list of problems that brexit would inevitably cause?

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Apr '17 - 12:49pm

    Is Luxembourg a tax haven?

  • @Denis Loretto – The problem is that the Article 50 negotiations are all about detail and May in her letter has clearly demonstrated that she (and her government) don’t do detail. If they did she would have made explicit mention of: Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and “the non-European territories maintaining special relationships with … the United Kingdom” [Article 117 of the Act of Accession]; all of which are the subject of either specific Articles or special provisions with respect to the UK’s accession to the EEC.

    Additionally, with respect to Gibraltar, the Act of Accession seems to make a distinction between UK nationals – which includes the people of Gibraltar and the territory of Gibraltar.

    So I think the inclusion of Gibraltar isn’t strange, it is just EU seeking clarification and reminding May that Brexit has impacts outside of “the UK” that she (and her government) have clearly not considered.

  • @Michael Berridge
    If you had ever visited the Falkland Islands, as I have on five occasions, you would understand how insensitive your comments are. Argentina did not even exist as far back as some of the families who inhabited the islands in 1982 could trace their lineage on the Islands. It is a unique place with a people who just wanted to be left to get on with their lives. Lives that remain blighted by unexploded munitions. When a country offers protection to a people they should be obligated to provide it. Why on earth should they move to Scotland?
    I would also urge caution on looking too simplistically at Gibraltar. Again it is a territory I have visited on numerous occasions and where I have friends living now. When the inhabitants are so fiercely opposed to any sharing of Sovereignty then their wishes to remain a U.K. Territory should be sacrosanct.
    Howard is being as provocative as ever and his choice of analogy was clumsy at best. It worth noting that in typical politician or lawyer style he didn’t actually threaten a war with Spain, he said that the current PM would be equally resolute.
    And as others have noted Spain’s hypocrisy will not go unnoticed in Morocco..

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