A succession of Tories have threatened to go to war to “defend” Gibraltar, the British possession on the southern tip of the Spanish state.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon said Britain would go “all the way” to keep Gibraltar. Foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the British government’s support for Gibraltar will remain “implacable and rock-like”.
On the Andrew Marr show former Conservative leader Lord Michael Howard referenced Margaret Thatcher’s Falklands War.
He said, “Thirty five years ago another woman prime minister sent a taskforce to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country.
“And I am absolutely certain our current prime minister will show the same resolve in Gibraltar.”
Later the same day he said he wasn’t supporting war but “I can see no harm in reminding the Spanish what kind of people we are”.
The Tories were responding to the need for Gibraltar’s relationship with the European Union (EU) to be reviewed as part of Brexit. A clause in the EU’s response to the British decision to invoke Article 50 says Gibraltar could be excluded from trade deals if Spain does not agree the territory’s status.
On one level the sabre-rattling is absurd.
Perhaps as retaliation, the Spanish Tory government said it would not veto an attempt by an independent Scotland to join the EU.
This is a boost to the Scottish National Party’s push for a second referendum.
The frenzy over Gibraltar leads to yet more xenophobic propaganda.
Writing in the Sun newspaper, Kelvin MacKenzie denounced the Spanish as “donkey rogerers” and called for the 125,000 Spanish people working in Britain to be expelled.
Even Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said it was important that “the sovereignty of Gibraltar is protected”.
Gibraltar is under British rule as it was seized as part of a war in the 18th century.
In 1704 a fleet of English and Dutch ships captured the town during the War of the Spanish Succession and it was granted to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht.
On seven separate occasions between 1713 and 1728 the British government proposed to give back the territory, but nationalist MPs blocked the move.
It was useful as a naval base during the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Today it is an important tax haven. Many internet companies are based there so they pay no tax.
The Panama Papers, the documents that exposed massive tax evasion by companies and politicians, showed Gibraltar played a leading role for the rich.
Britain has absolutely no right to govern Gibraltar.
Don’t mention the war
Theresa May headed off this week to one of Britain’s biggest allies in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia.
May said she hoped the trip would “herald a further intensification in relations between our countries”.
Saudi Arabia is British firms’ largest defence export market. It’s responsible for an estimated 58 percent of orders between 2006 and 2015.
Saudi Arabia plays an important military role for Britain and the US.
May won’t highlight the murderous Saudi war in Yemen. It has killed 12,000 civilians, displaced three million and led to a famine affecting seven million people.
Nor will May denounce the vile regime which saw 150 people executed last year.