In the latest twist to the Brexit narrative since the triggering of Article 50, tempers have flared over the status of Gibraltar.
The European Council declared that Gibraltar could only be included in a trade deal between London and Brussels only with Spain’s agreement.
Former Conservative Leader Lord Howard told Sky News on Sunday: “Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman Prime Minister sent a task force 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.”
The territory, located on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, has been under British rule for over 300 years since it was captured by Anglo-Dutch forces during the War of Spanish Succession in 1704. In the modern era, “The Rock” as it is known colloquially is still answerable to Britain, but runs its own affairs and is in charge of its own economy and taxation.
It relies heavily on tourism, financial services and shipping but is also a known tax haven for companies such as Credit Suisse, the bank that had its offices raided a week ago due to suspected money laundering schemes, in which 55,000 suspect accounts were discovered and millions of euros in cash, gold, jewellery, real estate and paintings.
Brexit has brought people of all political persuasions into discussion about how best to move forward in a future without the European Union, but looking back on the debate before the referendum it is difficult to reconcile the rhetoric of working alongside Europe from those who supported Britain’s exit with the inflammatory language that we see post-Article 50.
Nigel Farage, the poster boy for anti-EU sentiment, accused the European Union of “behaving like the mafia” with their demands in the negotiation, so it cannot be said that the incendiary choice of words by Lord Howard are a one-off from Britain’s camp. In the face of the controversy surrounding Gibraltar and Britain’s influence within it, those in positions of power are expressing the same jingoistic tendencies that were vehemently denied during the referendum period.
In order for the situation be resolved in the most beneficial manner to Britain and Spain, cool heads must prevail and rhetoric must not be allowed descend into nationalist rants and war-mongering, or the situation will likely deteriorate rapidly.