On the 3rd of April, 2017 Spanish Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis urged British politicians to cease inflammatory remarks against Spain. The remark that struck a nerve was directed at Spain from former Leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard; saying that the Prime Minister Theresa May would “go to war” over Gibraltar...
Why has the mentioning of Gibraltar caused a stir?
On the 3rd of April, 2017 Spanish Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis urged British politicians to cease inflammatory remarks against Spain.
The remark that struck a nerve was directed at Spain from former Leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard; saying that the Prime Minister Theresa May would “go to war” over Gibraltar.
The remarks come on the eve of the 35-year anniversary of the successful invasion of the Falklands by the Thatcher government.
What caused the inflammatory remarks?
The remarks come after the European Union released the initial draft guidelines for Britain's Exit. The mentioning of Gibraltar was in sub clause 22, which stated –
“22. 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.”
The statement implies that the Kingdom of Spain who lost control of Gibraltar in 1713, has a right to veto an agreement that does not allow Gibraltar to access the benefits of the European Union. This caused uproar from Conservative MP Michael Howard who reacted by saying that May’s government would do anything to protect Gibraltar.
Is there any actual cause for concern?
The Kingdom of Spain has not controlled the minuscule nation for roughly 300 years and there have been no territorial claims by the Spanish for it back at all since the democratization of the nation after Francisco Franco’s death. Military force to defend Gibraltar is simply not an option and the entire statement can be deemed as a complete overreaction. However, the issue of Gibraltar as a trade route and a de-facto EU member must be discussed.
The European Union has included the clause for its own benefit as the strait’s play a crucial role for the Mediterranean nations to trade with the world. On leaving the E.U, it is up to Britain to decide how they will deal with Gibraltar but it seems highly improbable that any restrictions on the strait will be imposed. The key for both nations is working out a deal that allows Spanish workers easy access to Gibraltar and vice versa.
Former Conservative Leader, Michael Howard should be reprimanded for his remarks against one of the main European nations. This also comes as Spain announced that they would not veto Scotland’s membership into the European Union, despite them dealing with the secessionist movements from the Basque county and Catalonia. This could further push Spain into backing Scotland's move and maybe negotiate strongly for trade restrictions on the nation.