16 Oct, 2017 @ 11:19
2 mins read

HISTORY REPEATS? How the Brexit debacle reminds Charles Gomez of the Spanish American war more than 100 years ago


VIEWING the spectacle of political debate in the UK since the Brexit referendum result, I am reminded of the last days of the Spanish American war in 1898.

The Spanish colonial army in Cuba had been battling Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’  and the US army since the beginning of the year.

At one point the American supply lines appear to have failed and the Yankee brass met solemnly in their headquarters tent outside La Habana.

ROOSEVELT: Could history be repeating itself?

They started preparing a letter of Truce to send to the Spaniards. The Americans applied themselves diligently to preparing a list of terms which would have allowed them to return to Florida with their horses and weapons. As with all declarations of military defeat the letter took a long time to be drafted as the officers tried to mitigate their country’s humiliation.

Even as the I’s were been dotted and the t’s crossed a lieutenant rushed into the tent to announce that a Spanish messenger had just arrived. To the joyful disbelief of the Americans who were resigned to throw in the towel, the Spaniard walked in with a message from his Commanding Officer, surrendering Cuba to the US.

Thereafter Puerto Rico and the Philippines also fell to the US.

Spain fell into a black hole of national despair and decline which lasted for almost a century.

Some of this story may be apocryphal – I leave it to the many historians who read the Olive Press to fill in details and corrections. My point is that even as the political elite in London agonises about Brexit negotiations I wonder whether it is the German dominated EU which is on the brink of collapse.

MERKEL: Uncertain times ahead?

Consider this: Theresa May is generally derided as having done very badly in the June General Election. Yet, the mother of the EU, Frau Merkel did even worse in the German plebiscite last month. Indeed Merkel fared less well than Jeremy Corbyn.

Not just that but her knuckle-headed policy on immigration has made the unthinkable a reality. In a country where the far right has been out of mainstream politics since the 1950’s the new Bundestag boasts no less than 94 far right MPs. Immigration aside, the hard pressed German taxpayer is also deeply unhappy at the prospect of having to continually bail out southern European countries.

Down south Prime Minister Rajoy proudly admits that he is Merkel’s best pupil who has always handed up his homework on time. One wonders what the German electorate makes of Spain.

As I write these lines I am troubled by the red mist that appears to have risen over Spain on account of the campaign for Catalan independence. As a student of history I have a relatively good idea of what happens when the Castilians are roused to anger.

Today I heard someone on Spanish radio make a comparison with Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s.

It is almost unbelievable that anyone should be alluding to Balkan disintegration when discussing Spain, one of the top European and world economies; but there you have it.

Wherever you look in the EU there appear to be problems. Greece, Poland, Hungary and so on.

NOT SMILING ANYMORE: Macron’s popularity has been tanking according to polls in France

We are told that Emmanuel Macron will be the saviour of the EU; but  who is Mr Macron? What are his policies? What is his prescription to cure the ailing European Union? The fact that millions of people are looking to him even though he has not come up with a single coherent policy statement should cause panic among all right thinking Europeans.

I wonder whether before the Conservative government in London finally gets its act together the EU as we know it will have ceased to exist and it will be the bureaucrats in Brussels who turn up unannounced at the Foreign and Commonwealth office in King Charles’ street with their own terms of capitulation.

Charles Gomez (OP Columnist)

Charles Gomez has been a barrister for more than thirty years and is currently an Honorary Professor of International Law at the University of Cadiz, where he hosts lectures in English and Spanish.
Readers of the Olive Press are invited to discuss this or any other legal matter with Charles Gomez by emailing [email protected]

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