95.9% of the population of the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar voted to stay in the EU.
British Overseas Territories are former members of the British Empire that have chosen to be internally ruled but remain under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of Britain, with the British Government responsible for their defence and foreign affairs.
Spain, under its monarch of the day, ceded Gibraltar to Britain in the 1713 Treaty Of Utrecht, following Britain’s 1704 capture of the Rock during the War of the Spanish Succession. Spain confirmed the territorial transfer in a series of later treaties but nevertheless twice – fourteen years and forty years later – tried and failed to take Gibraltar back by force of siege.
To this day it is Spanish government policy to pursue the retaking of the Rock by what is described as ‘peaceful means’ – although their interpretation of ‘peaceful’ is pretty elastic. Such means have included threatening displays of naval strength within Gibraltarian waters; and, on occasion, by closing that border with The Rock on the Spanish side.
This border lies across the narrow choke through which land access to the small peninsular territory of the Rock is gained. Closing it prevents Gibraltarians who work across the border in Spain from getting to work – and stops supplies getting into the town.
Being part of the EU membership of Britain brought Gibraltar security against the harrassment of border closures, since one member may not close borders against another.
Om the 23rd June 2016, the British Referendum on EU Membership – which by a narrow overall majority of 52% to 48% voted to leave the EU, left Gibraltar, with its 95.9% vote to remain, in an infinitely more parlous position that the one claimed by the SNP, with Scotland voting 62% to remain.
Gibraltar now sees its very sustainability under threat – open again to the repeated threats of what Spain describes as ‘peaceful means’.
Scotland’s much vaunted wish to remain in the EU and to leave the British union to do so, is an economic nonsense, with Scottish Government statistics for 2014 showing 64% of Scotland’s total exports going to the rest of the UK – and 11.6% going to the EU.
Yet the persistent synthetic squeals from Scotland about ‘being dragged out of Europe against the will of the Scottish people’ gets all of our insular attention, while Gibraltar now has powerful reason to doubt its very survival.
Unlike Scotland, which seems bizarrely keen to risk its 64% exports to the rest of the UK in favour of trying to build a few more percent on its 11.6% exports to the EU, Gibraltar wants London to accept its Chief Minister’s proposal to establish a common and single market between Gibraltar and the UK.
Our national media have paid little or no attention to the predicament of this British territory no further ‘overseas’ than the entrance to the Med.
Yet Gibraltar is campaigning hard to try to get the same input into the Brexit negotiations as is guaranteed to the administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This very week a high level group from Gibraltar has been doing the rounds of the British government in London, working to press their case for such inclusion – and aware of of the potential impotence of their operation since, as circumstances would have it, Ministers they lobbied before 13th July may not be in place after 14th July.
This has proved the case.
The Gibraltarian delegation met with Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Letwin and the Minister for Europe, David Lidington – and on 14th July Oliver Letwin was dropped altogether from the cabinet of Prime Minister, Theresa May and David Liddington had become Leader of the House of Commons. [Britain today does not have a Minister for Europe, the new brief being for a Brexit Secretary.]
Former Prime Minister, David Cameron, had said that he anticipated that Gibraltar would be ‘consulted’ as part of the discussions.
Gibraltar is, however, understandably determined that it should be fully involved, as will be Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Its case for such involvement is irrefutable but who is listening?.
Britain appears not even to be interested in what is happening in Gibraltar, so where is there reason to trust us to look after the interests of the Rock in discussions where the home nations will be fighting their own corners?
This parochial insularity is of course what took us out of Europe. We would grace that decision if we showed an engaged concern for the plight of Gibraltar rather than casually writing it off as collateral damage from our action.