I wish to discuss something today very dear to me. Usually I have tried to avoid politics as much as I can, but there comes a point when you cannot just avoid discussing the matters at hand. It is this issue that I find myself commenting upon today.
I may not have stated this before, but I was born and raised in Gibraltar. As a Gibraltarian I have always taken great pride and interest in matters concerning my country. For those that may be unaware. there has been political unrest between Gibraltar and Spain for over three centuries. From the 18th to the 19th Century, this unrest was mostly military, and came as a result of British Sovereign rule over Gibraltar via right of conquest.
Since the 20th century, this unrest has become of a more political nature. In 1969 General Franco, Dictator and ruler of Spain back then, closed the border between Gibraltar and Spain until 1985. I was three years old when the border opened once more. Since that time, I have been witness to countless acts of Spanish aggression towards Gibraltar and its people.
These acts of aggression have often been political, usually causing delays in our borders due to overly lethargic customs checks. Checks which each time they indicate is vital, but surely, for a border that barely stretches over a hundred metres in length, border queues stretching up to and including eight hours is frankly ridiculous.
Part of the aggression comes due to fishing clashes. As it might be known, there are certain types of fishing that are illegal all across the EU, mainly due to the indiscriminate way in which the fishing damages the ecosystem of the area being fished in, as well as the environment beneath the sea. Spain’s fisherman have often engaged in illegal fishing methods in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. This resulted in an artificial reef being created in this small little area of fishing which has been affected the most. The size of the area damaged was around 200 metres in total.
This caused a tremendously ridiculous reaction from Spain, causing queues of up to eight hours at our border for over two months. Eight hours in the summer heat, wherein temperatures can reach close to 40’C, which lead to many requiring medical attention. There was no compassion shown neither to children nor the elderly by the Spanish Customs, they simply did not care, all that mattered was their “principal”, that being that Gibraltar, and its waters, should belong to Spain.
Their petulance and failure to accept losing Gibraltar in a war against joint British and Dutch forces, and the ceding of Gibraltar in perpetuity for eternity to Britain in the treaty of Utretcht in 1713, well over three hundred years ago, is what fuels these acts.
Unfortunately they also engage in never ending media propaganda across Spanish television against Gibraltar and its people, which has lead to racist views towards Gibraltar and its people, and in some extreme cases, hatred and violence, directed towards Gibraltarians.
In my youth I have been subject to racism from Spanish people, both in Spain and the United Kingdom, merely because of where I am from, and because of the fact that I speak Spanish in a different accent than Spanish people do.
In the last few months there have been over 200 incursions into Gibraltar wars by Spanish vessels, both police and customs vessels. This included recently of a flying of a helicopter at high speed chasing Spanish Smugglers across a Gibraltarian beach, wherein a large number of locals were bathing. The Spanish customs helicopter came so close, that the local populace at the beach were placed in some risk. I honestly thought this had reached its zenith with the aforementioned incident above. Today has changed all that.
During the last weekend, a small pleasure boat, from Gibraltar, was cruising in Gibraltar waters, a Spanish customs vessels entered Gibraltar waters (which it has no right to do so, seeing as Gibraltar is British and not Spanish) and proceeded to fire four shots from a pistol at the passengers in the small pleasure boat. Their reason? They believe Gibraltar and its waters is theirs, and they can do as they so wish.
Time and time again, Gibraltar has urged the British Government to do something about this, time and time again they have failed to do so, the most stringent action taken has been writing a “strongly worded” letter to the Spanish ambassador about it. I can say with almost certainty that the Spanish ambassador deals with these letters by consigning them to a bin.
However Spain’s actions are becoming ever more dangerous, ever more aggressive, just what will it take for the British Government to do something of substance? To stop these never ending acts of aggression, born out of petulance and an inability to accept that Gibraltar and its people are British and wish to stay that way? Will lives have to be lost before something is done? Just how much of a cost does Gibraltar have to pay before Britain puts a stop to these Spanish actions on a permanent basis.
Before I am misunderstood, I do not suggest that the action taken by Britain be a military one, I have no desire to see any nation beset by war, especially my own. I wouldn’t even suggest economic sanctions since I have no desire to neither Spanish nor British lives affected by the harshness of poverty and an adverse affect in the economy.
My suggestion is something that was first offered to us in the 60s by Britain, which mistakenly, in my opinion, the Gibraltar government rejected at the time, devolved integration. Make Gibraltar an official part of Great Britain, making us akin to a county like Sussex or Norfolk, whilst still being able to keep our own currency, tax system, and elected Government. This would achieve two things, one it would cause an end to continual Spanish aggression, since this would hitherto mean that any Spanish aggression against Gibraltar, would be considered aggression against Mainland Britain. The other thing it would achieve is to allow a population of 30,000 people to finally feel accepted and cherished by the Crown that we so loyally love and feel proud to be under.
Devolved integration would allow Gibraltar to keep its identity whilst maintaining the Britishness that we all feel proud of. Ask any Gibraltarian how they feel about being British and the answer would be one of pride. There would be no fiscal no financial cost by the British Government or the British tax payers for Gibraltar, since we would continue to have our own economy and all costs faced by our nation would be dealt with as they are now, by ourselves.
The time has come I believe for Britain to do right by Gibraltar and its people, for Britain to stand up for its loyal British subjects at the base of one of the pillars of Hercules. The time has come for Britain to grant Gibraltar devolved integration in order to protect both British and Gibraltarian interests.
In the past we have been an important naval, military and cultural ally to Britain, and we continue to do so at present, and will do so in the future. The travel advantages alone would be worth it, since Britons would be able to fly to Gibraltar as an internal flight, similar to the flights that fly from London to Manchester for example.
Gibraltar and its people are proud of being British and all that we ask is for Great Britain, to stand up for its people and defend what is rightfully theirs, so that we may live as we have always desired to, in peace, without any troubles or issues with our neighbours across the border.
Until next time,