UPDATE 03/04/2017: Tempers are already flaring over the Brexit negotiations, as former British Conservative leader Michael Howard has suggested that Prime Minister Theresa May should be prepared to go to war with Spain (a NATO ally) to defend Gibraltar. He made the remarks in two separate interviews, for Sky News and the BBC, saying: “35 years ago this week another woman prime minister sent a task force half way 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.”
Lord Howard was referring to the 1982 war with Argentina over the Falklands. He made the comments in response to the EU’s draft negotiating guidelines, which included a provision giving Spain a veto over whether any Brexit deal also applies to Gibraltar. Howard has been criticised for “sabre-rattling”, and the Spanish foreign minister has accused Britain of “losing their cool”.
What next for Gibraltar? Will Gibraltar be excluded from any EU-UK deal? Could the Gibraltar issue bog down the negotiations entirely? And is it time to tone-down the rhetoric?
UPDATE 24/06/2016: Spain’s Foreign Minister has repeated his call to re-open the discussion over Gibraltar. In a radio interview following Britain’s vote to leave the EU, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said it was time to discuss join-sovereignty with the UK, saying: “I hope the formula of co-sovereignty – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock – is much closer than before”.
The population of Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, with 95.9% opting for Remain.
ORIGINAL 22/06/2016: In two days, Britain could be heading for the exit. Polling in the UK’s upcoming EU referendum indicates that the two sides are neck-and-neck (though polls have been wrong before). Both sides are waving flags and appealing to patriotism, but what would a more muscular sense of nationalism mean in the event that Britons opt to Leave?
Remain campaigners argue that when you start redrawing borders, it can be difficult to stop. Enda Kenny, the Irish taoiseach (head government) has argued that Brexit could re-open political tensions in Northern Ireland, presenting “an opportunity for others with malign agendas to exploit”. Scottish nationalists hope that a vote to Leave would lead to renewed calls for Scottish independence.
Have you already made your mind up which way to vote? Do YOU think Britain should leave the European Union? Let us know what you think in the poll below:
One such dispute is between Spain and the UK over the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. We had a comment sent in by Jorge, who argued that the fact both the UK and Spain belonged to the EU had, ultimately, helped to ease tensions over Gibraltar. Is he right? And, if so, what would be the impact of Brexit on Gibraltar?
To get a response, we approached Spanish politicians and representatives of the Spanish government, but nobody was willing to comment in time for publication. However, Spain’s Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, recently commented on this issue in an interview on Spain’s Radio Nacional. Asked about the impact of Brexit, he said:
It’s true that [Brexit would give] us an opportunity to have an even more important role than the one we already have with the United States, and don’t forget about one other thing: we’ll be talking about Gibraltar the very next day.
For another perspective, we also spoke to Dr. Joseph Garcia, Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar. Would would he respond to Jorge?
We also had a comment from Odtaa, who suggested that the European Commission could have done more to mediate the dispute between Spain and Britain. How would Dr. Joseph Garcia respond? Did he think the Commission has done a good job managing tensions?
What would be the impact of Brexit on Gibraltar? Would leaving the EU open up a string of old nationalist disputes? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!