IN A tongue in cheek but funny retort to the Gibraltar crisis the Daily Mirror journalist, the Fleet Street Fox, gives both barrels to Spain´s jingoistic foreign minister and Spain’s claims to the rock.
“All right, Spain. You’ve asked for this.
You’ve issued one of your five-yearly threats to seize, impound, disrupt, tax or otherwise penalise Gibraltar and its residents on the grounds that this small bit of rock is attached to the bigger bit of rock you call home.
For some, this provides irrefutable proof that Gibraltar is Spanish. Presumably in the same way that China is Russian and Denmark belongs to Germany.
Not letting logic get in his way, your foreign minister has declared ‘the party’s over’ and threatened 100 euro fines for people crossing the border, banning flights from Spanish air space and generally started behaving like Franco in a particularly belligerent mood.
Very well. Let’s look at the facts, shall we?
1. Gibraltar is about as Spanish as pie and chips. The first recorded occupants were Lebanese traders , followed by Germans, Romans, and the Islamic empire. The first castle was built by a Berber sultan and it wasn’t captured by the Spanish until 1462.
2. Twelve years later you sold it.
3. You spent 200 years or so invading much of the world, killing millions of Amerindians with smallpox , and burning and torturing those that survived because they didn’t think eating a thin bit of flour and water was the same thing as eating the body of a man they’d never met .
4. You tried to do the same here, first by marriage and then by invasion . Not the best way to make friends.
5. You did nothing very much with Gib for two centuries and then lost it in a fight with us and the Dutch. The fight was about whether a French prince could succeed to the Spanish crown and thus rule half of Europe. Most of Europe didn’t like the idea, and you were invaded by pretty much everyone up to and including the Holy Roman Empire.
6. Unsurprisingly, you lost. We all signed the Treaty of Utrecht in which the French prince was allowed to have Spain so long as he promised to be nice and sign away a few things. Article X states: “The Catholic King does hereby, for himself, his heirs and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications and forts hereunto belonging; and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.”
7. There’s not a lot of wriggle-room in that. Lawyers, eh?
8. What you gave us in 1714 was a 300-year-old Moorish castle, a medieval town and a fishing port. In the years since we have turned it into a naval base, a financial centre, tourist destination and online gaming base which turns over £650million a year and provides employment for 10,000 of your citizens. You’re welcome.
9. The last person who seriously laid claim to it is the fascist dictator you’d rather forget, and there were referendums in 1967 and 2002 which found 99% of the population wanted to remain British.
10. In 500 years of warring you’ve lost far more often than you’ve won and you have, most noticeably, consistently failed to win against us. You tried to seize Gibraltar by force twice in the 18th century and failed miserably on each attempt, since we smashed your Armada in 1588 it’s never been the same since. Today you’ve got 21,000 sailors and 54 ships, and we’ve got 53,000 with reserves, 97 ships, 61 Royal Marine craft and 170 vessels in the Fleet Air Arm.
Considering all this, it is entirely understandable that with your economy on its arse , suicides endemic following eviction and a government not so much beleaguered as halfway to hell and still digging you might feel the need to hark back to the days of empire and rattle the old sabre a bit.
You are though on rather shaky ground, not just because you signed a contract and the 30,000 Gibraltarians want you in charge of them about as much as they want to contract the ebola virus.
Firstly you claim ownership of a number of bits of rock that are not attached to your main bit of rock – the Balearics, the Canaries, two cities in north Africa and a number of islets which, to an unbiased eye, look very Moroccan .
Secondly your suggestion of border taxes would mainly penalise the 10,000 Spaniards who work in Gibraltar and, er, vote for you. It’s very unlikely to happen, as is your idea of banning planes from your airspace.
Plane companies can get around this very easily and you would soon find that Spanish airports were avoided by British tourist planes and losing millions in revenue.
Seeing as you’re broke, this just isn’t going to happen.
Gibraltar is a place you barely bothered to occupy, sold for cash, lost in wars, and now are trying to grab purely because it’s the only financially successful thing within a 50-mile radius of your border.
Its people are ethnically a mix of Genoese, Portugese, Maltese and Spanish descent and legally they are citizens of the United Kingdom with an MP in the House of Commons and an MEP in the European Parliament.
Our economy’s not brilliant but it’s still doing better than yours, as is what is left of our overseas empire which despite its rotten parts also exported the Magna Carta, democracy and the ability to make a decent cuppa.
You exported the Inquisition and the Molotov cocktail . Thanks for those.
But let’s not be antagonistic – we’ve had centuries of Anglo-Spanish fighting and we should be past that now.
You’ve also given us sangria, sherry, tapas and marzipan, and you do amazing things with ham. We holiday with you, and you need our money.
So just be honest, and admit that this has all come about because you wanted to divert attention from problems at home and your traditionally-antsy fishermen have got upset about an artificial reef built to stop them raiding Gibraltarian waters .
Then perhaps you could tell them to stop nicking our fish in the first place, whether it’s off Gibraltar, in the English Channel, the North Sea or the Irish Sea, and make sure they pay the fines our courts have levied for breaking the rules .
After you’ve done that you can apologise properly for 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition, promise to think before you speak and personally I’d be glad if you could tell everyone there’s no need for peas in paella.
You don’t have to, of course. You could carry on acting like idiots and we’ll carry on ignoring you because you’ve got all the threat and military might of a field mouse squeaking at a cat.
Or you could be glad that the bit of rock next to yours is well-run, productive, and law-abiding and that the people who live on it have a right to determine their own futures which they would rather was not closely linked to yours.
That’s something you’ve not really achieved with your own bit of rock, so you’ll forgive us for thinking you shouldn’t be entrusted with any more.
And in case that’s still not clear: Naff off, Juan.”