Why should Gibraltarians have to repeatedly remind others that they are British?

What other group of people are so regularly forced to proclaim their nationality?

LAST UPDATED: 20 Feb, 2017 @ 17:24
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WHENEVER things get difficult, Gibraltarians have to remind all who care to listen that we are British.

Only recently our current Chief Minister, Mr Picardo gave a typically eloquent ‘red, white and blue’ speech which earned him a round of applause at a parliamentary select committee meeting in Westminster.

ROCK SOLID: But why does Gibraltar proclaim its nationality so often?
ROCK SOLID: But why does Gibraltar proclaim its nationality so often?

Lately, I have been wondering what other group of people are so regularly forced to proclaim their nationality.  It is not as if Gibraltarians are recent British citizens.

Many if not most of us can trace our “Britishness” to the middle of the 18th Century if not earlier.

Should I start resenting the pressure to make, or have Gibraltar’s political leaders repeat these autos da fé with such indecent regularity?

The Gibraltarian privateering fleet held the defence of this key to the Mediterranean at a time when Nelson’s fleet was otherwise engaged.

Please keep your suggestions of piracy to yourself; the use of private ships of war has always been common in naval warfare.

Would Britain have defeated  Napoleon at Trafalgar were it not for Gibraltar and the Gibraltarians?  Indeed, would the Allies have been able to beat Rommel in North Africa and then carry out the invasion of Italy if General Eisenhower had not had his headquarters in Gibraltar in 1942?

Yes, I am getting a little bit sore with having to repeat that we are British.

From 1968 to 1982 my fellow citizens endured a siege from Spain whilst London had relatively friendly relations with Franco in Madrid.

In the Second World War my grandfather fought for King and Country in Burma.

As a lawyer I place a lot of importance on the concept of citizenship.

It is a concept that is near the centre of jurisprudence.

Recently I have written in the Olive Press about my own view that European citizenship for those British citizens who have it will survive a BREXIT.

Citizenship, I repeat, is a crucial right and I do not believe that Gibraltarians should be forced to have to proclaim it at every turn.

The inhabitants of the  Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla are not required to reiterate their Spanishness.

Sir Mo Farah, the champion Olympic runner who came to Britain when he was a child in the late 1980’s and has been living in the US for the last 6 years, isn’t asked whether he is British.

He isn’t asked because everybody knows that he, like the Gibraltarians, is British and it would be the height of rudeness to ask him.

Which brings me to another point which is that by being forced by circumstances to repeat our centuries’ old nationality, we necessarily curtail the discussion that we are able to have with the Spanish political establishment.

Hardly has any form of sensible debate begun but that we have to tell the Spaniards that we are different from them.

Not better, not worse, but different and from there the discussion sours.

Over the last  few years I have been working to try to develop an understanding among young Spaniards as to what Gibraltar is.

Much of the Spanish media, particularly between August 2013 and the middle of 2015 depicted Gibraltarians as ruthless squatters on Spanish land.

Many will recall the unfortunate YouTube clip of a school play in the village of Alfajarín near Zaragoza in which pupils dressed up as Civil Guards, shooting dead other pupils acting as Gibraltarians.

There were many similar incidents which there is no point in repeating now.

The antidote for misunderstandings, let alone hatred, is of course information.

So, I have involved myself in helping put together lectures  on English law  for Spanish students in Gibraltar on English law.

They are able to come to Gibraltar and see for themselves that Gibraltar is not just the cheap tobacco shops of Irish Town and the ubiquitous jewellers on Main Street.

There is a centuries’ old society here.

Nobody who visits the Court House, built to dispense law among Gibraltarians in the 1750’s, or the Garrison Library of 1793 or the Parliament building of 1817 can fail to appreciate it.

Last year,  I attended a talk by the Mayor of Essaouira, the Moroccan MP Asma Chaabi.

She recalls bringing a  group of pupils from a school in Tangiers to Gibraltar in 1994.

She says that even today many of her students who are by now prominent in the Moroccan professions, business, the civil service and the military recall with great affection their visit to the Rock so many years ago.

The problems of this region are not solved by dressing up in flags but in welcoming each other.

Then we can all see that our differences do not divide us but can create positive relationships of respect and affection in the pursuit of peace and prosperity

24 COMMENTS

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  1. Apart from the odd, stray fanatic posting on here, the average Spaniard isn’t really fussed about Gib. In fact, many thousands of them rely on it for a living. Gibraltar supplies a hate figure for right-wing politicians, who need a big spoon to stir up a wave of Nationalistic fervour, which they attempt to surf on.

  2. Suberbly portrayed Charles. I too very often get very disheartened at having spent a good part of my 56 years having to reiterate and at times even justify my nationality and why it is of such importance to me and my countryfolk.

  3. Well written Charles it is not just our own personal nationality that we want to preserve but the nationality of Our Gibraltar which the Spanish Government and other “fachas” refuse resolutely to accept and use it as a smoke screen whenever it suits their purposes in order to hide other bigger problems at home

  4. Of course the inhabitants of Gibraltar can choose to be British, Chinese, Moroccans, Italians, whatever they want.
    But the land they are occupying is an integral part of Spain.
    It happens the same with other British colonies: Malvinas, Northern Ireland and Chagos.
    4 different problems, 1 common denominator: the UK

  5. And just how many lands have the Spanish occupied and how many millions have they slaughtered, wonderful architecture destroyed that they could never emulate it goes on and on – go awy and invent a time machine then you can join in the beheading contests with Pizarro and his drunken conquistadores – negacionista.

  6. Oh, Bluemoon, if only it were true you were just after the land. If it were up to me, I would return the land to to Spain but in the exact same state they handed it to the British in the first place, a rock and little more, a mere extension of La Linea. Can you not see that all that Gibraltar is today is thanks to the UK, their legal system, their way of working and their grand education system. And that is what Spain is after, all that Gibraltar is today and not a mere extra 6km more of barren land extending from La Linea.

  7. Excellent Charles.
    The reason why we need to repeat this is because we are not considered a Devolved Region of the UK.
    If we were to be considered as such then we would be seen to have attained legitimately our place in the British family of nations. The EU Advocate Generally recently gave his opinion that Gibraltar was a part of the UK and could not be considered separately, It is about time that Gibraltar gained its proper place within the UK and not an Overseas Territory. If this anomaly were to be corrected our permanence within Britain would be finally recognized. This should be done with the enfranchisement of a seat in the House of Commons for Gibraltar to be able to speak there on matters affecting Gibraltar.

  8. Oh dear. Why not say it. We have been British for longer than the House of Windsor! Get it? Does anybody dare ask Prince Charles for procedence? Being British is a sentiment, not a flag. It’s the way you have been brought up, educated and led your lives under a common denominator, your values, your sense of fair play and democracy. Being British AND Gibraltarian is a plus. We certainly are not as insular, and the frontier closure helped make us more cosmopolitan than we ever were before as an international port, and we have learnt that different countries may be different, but not worse or better. They all have things to appreciate, and others that are not quite as appealing, same as we have. Neither they nor we would wish to interchange nationality. Each to their own.

    Gibraltar is not an extension of La Linea. La linea came into existance because of Gibraltar being British, and for ever, except during the closed years, being the magnet that draws people to it for providing a means to make a living. In Spanish hands it would be having both keys to the Mediterranean, that’s what they are after, not the land, or that stone in their shoe, or the thorn in their hearts. Pure greed!

  9. Charlie Gomez is the thinking man’s idea of a lawyer. Stop messing around and stand for Parliament Charles, we have all had enough of the dilettantes in the law and politics. Get in there and start kicking some ass. Gibraltar needs you.

  10. Ceuta had been a Gothic principality long befor Julianus, the Gothic “Viscount of Ceuta”, had a dispute with the Gothic King Roderic and in 711 AD had invited Tariq Ibn Ziyad, the chief of the Moorish parts of Morroco to join him invading the Iberian peninsula. King Roderic was defeated and killed in the battle at the Rio Guadalete and the Moores then remained in Andalucia for 780 years. If we agree that the Gothic kingdom (headquartered at Toledo) on the Iberian peninsula had been the predecessor of “Spain”, then Ceuta is a legal part of Spain for about 1500 years. Compare this with 300 years of British sovereignty over Gibraltar.

  11. It seems the posters of this newspaper dont know too much about history, no?
    Gibraltar was always and still is an integral part of Spain.
    It is illegally occupied, thats why iit is considered territory in dispute, and thats why it is on the decolonisation list.
    Anyway, the best solution for the Gibraltar issue right now, is to close the gate.
    It is the best for both parts: Spain and the EU on one hand, and the UK and its colony on the other.

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