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Standing fast… for three hundred years

Gibraltar remains a British colony to the overwhelming relief of its 27,833 inhabitants. Yet they are well aware that the reason Geoff Hoon, Britain’s dismal defence minister, yesterday attended the 300th anniversary of Britain’s capture of The Rock has little to do with any great enthusiasm for the people on The Rock or a deep commitment for retaining Gibraltar, but rather a disinclination to ‘make nice’ with Spain due to its policies regarding Islamic terrorism and Iraq.

In fact members of both the ‘tranzi left’ and ‘paleo right’ see Gibraltar as a weird anachronism and despite those groups fetishising their minor differences, both have a shared collectivist meta-context and think nothing of what the inhabitants of The Rock wish for themselves.

If the Gibraltarians were wise, they would let it be known that they are prepared to go all the way and exercise a ‘dooms day’ option of Unilateral Declaration of Independence if the political class in Britain ever decide to ‘give’ Gibraltar away: the battalion sized Gibraltar Regiment should simply take up arms with whoever will rally to the red and white flag, and man their border with bayonets fixed. Of course it is unlikely a militia army in Gibraltar could hold off a serious military move by Spain, though success against the odds is not without precedent, but would Spain actually be prepared to fight for 27,833 people who simply do not want to be Spanish?

I realise that is indeed what the Spanish state is doing in the Basque parts of Spain but this is a rather different proposition and unlike in the Basque country, there is no friendly constituency in Gibraltar who sees Spanish sovereignty as in any way tolerable. A Spanish takeover would be nothing less that a colonial occupation of an unwilling population.

People have to be prepared to literally fight for the things they value and if the people of Gibraltar made it clear that in the final analysis they would be willing to do exactly that, perhaps the chattering classes in both Spain and Islington Britain would stop thinking those people’s fate is something that can be lightly signed away by people in a ministry building in London or Madrid.

30 comments to Standing fast… for three hundred years

  • Jwarrior

    “people have to be prepared to literally fight for the things they value”

    That should be the saying of our time.

    This is what the ‘not in my name’ crowd don’t understand.

    War? What it is it good for? Absolutely nothing…

    …except for ending Nazism, Communism, Fascism and maybe, one day, terrorism.

  • ErikZ

    So what kind of gun control do they have there?

  • konshtok

    remember Hong Kong ?

    did anyone there wanted to be chinese ?

  • Jacob

    The occupation of Gibraltar by the British in 1704 was an illegal and unmoral land grab, by brute force. The original native inhabitants were expelled, and replaced by illegal settlers. The illegal settlement should be dismantled, and the land returned to the original owners. This is occupied land. Down with Imperialism !!

    (Admin: before you ban me from this site forever – I’m kidding. Just wanted to apply some modern jargon to the topic).

  • In the past the Spanish have proven remarkably bad at trying to take the rock by force. Assuming that the inhabitants had reasonable supplies of food guns and ammunition Spain would have a lot of trouble occupying the rock without a wholesale massacre today, its too much of a defender’s paradise. Destroy it yes. Starve out the inhabitants probably. But the terrain si such that invasion against a determined defense would be practically impossible.

    BTW as I wrote in my blog article on Gibraltar, Spain is treading on some pretty dodgy ground in trying to get it back


  • Verity

    Konshtok – Thank you for a chilling reminder. I still get chills of shame whenever I think of Hong Kong.

  • A_t

    Jacob, I presume your amusing comment is a defence of Israeli settlements. I agree that after a certain point, one has to say ‘these people live here’ & not hark on about the past, but the timescale is crucial. How much time must pass before you declare grabbing someone else’s land legal?

    If i come & chuck you out of your house & decide i’ll live there or more peacefully, occupy a portion of your garden, arguing that you’ve not made much use of it recently so I might as well have it (& anyway my ancestors might have lived somewhere round here 2000 years ago, & I also have a holy book with me which, viewed in the right light, might suggest I should live here), how soon can I claim that it’s my home?

    As I say, if you’re talking about Israel, all well & good. I have no argument with you. If you’re talking about the settlements, where’s your cutoff point? (& telling me Israel’s surrounded by hostile countries, or that the palestinians could go live in another arab country don’t count; these are individuals we’re talking about, not some abstract mass of people you can arbitrarily punish for collective behaviour. I could equally argue that, if i steal your house, you could move to canada or any other friendly western nation of your choosing)

    As to the Gibraltar thing… I dunno. Yeah if they want to stay British, let them (although doesn’t it cost taxpayers quite a lot to maintain them? what do we see in the way of benefits?), but personally I can’t see what all the fuss is about; live in the UK, live in Spain; wouldn’t make much difference at the end of the day.

  • A_t

    I should add, the Hong Kong thing was disgraceful. Unlike Spain, there’s a BIG difference between the UK & China, and now we see that all their nice talk about democracy etc. was just that; talk. Seeing as the people of Hong Kong were supposedly under British rule, we should at the very least have offered British passports & residency to whoever wanted them.

  • R C Dean

    now we see that all their nice talk about democracy etc. was just that; talk

    I thought it was pretty apparent at the time.

  • A_t

    Agreed, but the govt etc. were all going “nono, honestly, they mean it; we have assurances”.

  • WHS

    I agree, the Hong Kong hand-over was pretty disgraceful and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    But realistically, there was no alternative.

    And well spotted A_t, re: Jacob’s comments. Although amusing, I don’t see that his comparison with modern Israel and Gibraltar can be sustained for too long. Interesting though. I look forward to his response…

  • Verity

    WHS – No alternative?

    First, we could have negotiated much more skilfully to renew the lease. Something tells me the will wasn’t there. Second, we could have told China (through quiet diplomatic channels – not in face-losing public) we weren’t going, and then waited to see what they would do. I don’t think they were particularly panting to get their hands on Hong Kong. The effects of Hong Kong’s dynamic economy were already spreading across the border and making Guandong province unimaginably wealthy. I think they would have been amenable to a face-saving way out. Surely to god someone at the Foreign Office was aware of how this should be played?

    Third, if worse came to worst and we really had to get out, we should have offered every man, woman and child a British passport. They were British citizens and as British as we are. We just bloody abandoned them.

    Had we given right of abode to five million industrious, creative and (more or less) honest Chinese, Britain would now be the powerhouse of Europe and Germany and France would be coming to us on bended knee asking how we’d like to see the EU shaping up, please, if it’s not too much trouble.

    Anyone who has never visited Hong Kong cannot possibly conceive of the sense of industry, perpetual motion and wealth creation that seeps out of every nook and cranny. The whole place was (probably still is) electric with energy.

    We lost out through cowardice. Britain’s most disgraceful hour. I have deep contempt for everyone from Britain who blackened their own name by being involved in this treachery. Watching the ridiculous Prince of Wales and Chris Patten observing British military bands and farewell ceremonies with a straight face and sailing off on a brightly lit Britannia, as though we were leaving with honour, graciously handing over the keys, was more than I could tolerate and I zapped the TV off in a fury.

    I cannot stand the Chinese who took over the governance of Hong Kong, but frankly, they had the right idea when they contemptuously declined invitations to play their part in the charade of a “hand over” and simply stayed away.

  • Joel Català

    The people of Gilbraltar can feel happy to be English.

    After “persuading” the English rulers to withdraw from the War of Succesion to the Hispanic Crown in the Utecht Treaty of 1713, the Castilians (the original name of Spaniards) and the French could finally feel free to engage in a total war against Catalonia, the forgotten other –apart from Portugal– Iberian historical ally of England.

    You, and Americans, our political nephews, need to know that Catalonia fell under the Franco-Castilian joke the 11th of September of 1714, after a siege of Barcelona of more than a year.

    They –the Castilians– disarmed the Catalan people, even chaining the peasant’s cutting tools on tables; they forced us to destroy our own marketplaces, stone by stone; they dismantled our Parliament, and they abolished our Constitutions.

    After that Treaty, Gibraltar and Menorca remained under the English rule, while Catalonia was betrayed by you.

    Englishmen, remember the Genoa Treaty you signed!

    P.S.: I guess the only thing Castilians really covet is Catalan Beach.

  • Jacob

    The Israeli – Arab conflict is a long and complicated story, I won’t go into it just now. But you said:

    “As I say, if you’re talking about Israel, all well & good. I have no argument with you. If you’re talking about the settlements, where’s your cutoff point?”

    The point is – there is absolutely no difference between Israel and the “settlements”. All of Israel is a settlement. There is just a minuscule time difference of a couple of decades or so between earlier settlements and later ones. The Arabs never recognised Israel before 1967 and the Palestinians don’t recognise it now, and want the whole of it.
    The big catastrophe of the Palestinians (the “Naqba” as they call it) happened in 1948. It is this that they want to undo, not 1967 alone.
    People who think the conflict can easily be solved along some line or other have little understanding of the nature of the Arabs, and the nature of this conflict.

    My point in the occupied Gibraltar analogy was twofold: first: that’s what the Spaniards claim, and it cannot be said the claim is totally absurd and devoid of logic.
    Second: Land grabbing, settling, wars, population shifts – thse are normal phenomena, it happened everywhere, all of the time. Singling out Israel for condemnation along these lines is hypocritical propaganda.

  • Jacob

    and, A_t:

    “& anyway my ancestors might have lived somewhere round here 2000 years ago…”

    Maybe your ancestors lived somewhere near Gibraltar or Hong Kong 2000 years ago, or maybe you (and Verity and Perry) have some better claim to those places…

  • Jacob

    “but personally I can’t see what all the fuss is about; live in the UK, live in Spain; wouldn’t make much difference at the end of the day.”

    Well, the people of Gibraltar probably have their reasons. Beside their nationalist feelings (in favour of England) there is the matter of how generous welfare benefits are (compared to Spain), how low the taxes, how well the judicial system works, what regulations and obstructions to economic activity and trade exist, how much personal freedom is respected, etc.

  • Verity

    Jacob – and maybe they intuit something we don’t. Spain has a history of capitulating to Islam, and most recently allowed the Islamofascists to dictate the results of its election, in which fact they appear to take a certain pride. They did, after all, carry posters in their millions that read: Say No to Terrorism. (OK, Islamic terrorist crazies, I am saying no! Do you understand? No! I will not tolerate your bombing my railway sta……) But in Spain, this is called making a stand. Fine.

    Who knows where that eventually will lead? – I suspect downhill, which is what happens when you place yourself on an icy slope in the appeasment tobogann (kind of like the Peace Train, but faster). But except for Tony Bliar an’ ‘is good friend Sandy– oops! Peter – the Brits don’t go in for appeasement.

    The good folks in Gibraltar may be looking to the long term. They will be sold down the river. As Toneboy sold N Ireland down the river by dressing it up as a ‘peace process’, whatever the hell that means. Phonio Antonio has no pride in British history. Or, let’s face it, anything else. Has anyone ever heard him say he was proud of something? His old school? His ghastly, ugly children? (And so many of them. Like the Kennedys. Who cares that they will consume electricity and water and parking spaces? I am so totally fabulous that the earth should be populated with me.)

  • Jacob

    I guess you don’t like Toni Blair a whole lot, but was it necessary to drag his children into it ?

  • Blueman


  • ernest young


    Re the Hong Kong handover. I was under the impression that passports, UK citizenship, etc were offered to all the citizens, – who wanted to come.

    Some did want to come, but the majority either stayed, or opted for somewhere else.

    UK officialdom was expecting a big rush for entry, it just did not happen. I am sure there was a very good reason for their negativity, – is foresight a Chinese trait?

  • roberto rizzo

    When to the Cypriots get to return to their properties in the Turkish-occupied half of the island?

  • snide

    robert rizzo: what does that have to do with gibraltar? and in any case, most of the turks living in the north are turkish cypriots.

  • What always makes the Spanish squirm over Gibraltar is to remind them about their own Gibraltars, namely the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla within Morocco. You may recall the row when Morocco invaded the island of Perejil (“Parsley”), which is part of Ceuta, in July 2002.

    Ceuta and Melilla :
    + are enclaves which lie on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco;
    + which, under some duress, Morocco ceded in perpetuity to Spain in 1956 when Morocco gained independence from Spain;
    + the enclaves are internationally recognized as Spanish;
    + Morocco wants them back;
    + Spain wants to keep them;
    + the enclaves’ inhabitants unanimously don’t want to be given away.

    Gibraltar :
    + is an enclave on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
    + which, under some duress, Spain ceded in perpetuity to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713;
    + the enclave is internationally recognized as British;
    + Spain wants it back;
    + Britain wants to get rid of it;
    + the inhabitants unanimously don’t want to be given away.

    Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1731) said that “War is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means”. Did Spain’s use of military force to eject the Moroccans from Persijl signal that this was now to be their preferred mode of politics for solving the Gibraltar issue ? Or simply that smart people like to get physical, but only with those weaker than themselves ?

    As an earlier commenter remarked, however, the Gibaltarians are likely to mount huge physical, armed resistance to any Spanish invasion. Seeing how the Spanish people and new Socialist leaders instantly capitulated to a handful of terrorists after the Madrid bombing, it is hard to see how they would have the stomach to storm and bomb Gibraltar into submission.

  • Sandy P

    They could just go w/the nuke option, tell Britain to stand w/them or they’ll become a US territory. They could even work on statehood.

  • Vis-a-vis my above post about Ceuta and Melilla, I forgot to provide this link to a nice little topical cartoon

  • Mike

    While the Gibraltarians haven’t gone so far as to declare independence, they’ve stopped only a little short of that.

    Personally, I doubt if Gibraltar will ever be turned over to Spain, but I’m less confident that they’ll be able to avoid conforming to EU taxation levels. It’s not hard to imagine them getting stuck with a VAT in order to placate Spain.

  • A_t

    Sandy, what are you on about?

    What makes the people of Gibraltar any more likely to want to be American than Spanish? They want to be British, & that’s a long way from being American.

  • Apache

    Because A_t if the choice is between being Spanish and being American, American is far closer to their existing way of life than Spanish.

    Did that not occur to you?

  • The Spaniard

    Gibraltar is Spanish land and was stolen by British Pirates, if I had my way I would close the border for good. I would also not allow any flights destined for Gibraltar to fly over Spanish air space. Let them see how long they can last without vital services from Spain. I am glad that Spanish police make life difficult for people crossing the border. It’s funny how most of the inhabitants are monkeys.

  • And by that logic, Spain is Moorish land, stolen by the Spanish. And Ceuta? Do you think they should be forced to be part of Morocco against their will?

    After 300 years, Gibraltar belongs to its inhabitants and they do not what to be part of Spain. I am sure they will continue to ignore mindless nationalists like you.