Thursday, October 27, 2011


Daniel Hannan is a writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999 so it will come as no surprise to you that he writes a blog for the Daily Telegraph. Recently he penned an item: “Gibraltarians understand what it means to be British. Do we?” Sorry Mr Hannan, I take the view that Gibraltarians are Gibraltarians; the days of empire are over albeit probably not for Torygraph readers or Conservative politicians.

Mr Hannan has been chatting to the chief minister in London so now has a clear view of Caruana’s Gibraltar. Sadly it doesn’t match up to reality on the Rock but no surprises there either.

Hannan writes: “As recently as thirty years ago, 60 per cent of Gibraltar’s GDP came from the Ministry of Defence. Now that figure has fallen to six per cent, and the Rock's extraordinarily diversified economy includes financial services and online gaming. As it weaned itself off government spending, Gib became wealthier, happier and freer. There is no banking crisis here, no structural unemployment, no austerity programme; the government continues to run healthy surpluses. Indeed, the only thing that puzzles me is that the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, who has presided over this transformation since 1996, and who is up for re-election in a couple of weeks' time, should not enjoy 99 per cent approval ratings.”

So I asked Dr Joseph Garcia for his take on Hannan’s words. Not only is he the leader of the Liberal Party but has an unrivalled grasp on the history of Gibraltar – so is the ideal person to put the real Gibraltar in to context. He told me: “The analysis made by the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan is somewhat superficial and unduly generous to Mr Caruana. It is true that UK defence spending in Gibraltar has reduced considerably over the years. However, Gibraltar has not received a penny from the UK in development aid since 1986. This predates Caruana’s coming into power by a decade. The adjustment to transform the economy from a sheltered MOD based economy into a commercial one also predates Caruana coming into office. The naval dockyard, which was the Rock’s largest employer, closed down in 1984/5. It fell directly to Sir Joshua Hassan’s AACR (Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights) Government and that of his predecessor Joe Bossano (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party) to deal with the transformation of Gibraltar’s economic base.

“The Caruana Government built on the foundations that were laid by others. For example, bunkering of ships in the Bay and the origins of the offshore gaming industry were both present in Gibraltar before Caruana came into office. The MEP says that there is no banking crisis in Gibraltar. Of course there is no banking crisis. There are no "Gibraltarian" owned banks and there is no Gibraltarian currency. The main retail banks that operate in Gibraltar are branches of UK banks. The same squeeze on lending that exists in the United Kingdom also exists in Gibraltar where it has become increasingly difficult for businesses to obtain loans and for potential homebuyers to obtain a mortgage. Indeed, the Caruana Government itself recently announced its intention to mortgage £20 million of its own office blocks in order to raise capital to finance the construction of a private office development because private sources of finance were unavailable to the developers in Gibraltar. It is only comparatively recently that the Caruana Government has recognised that there is an unemployment problem for Gibraltar residents which has been generated by the influx of cross-border labour from Spain. The Government has resorted to setting up a scheme in certain industries, for example, by which companies that obtain Government contracts will have to employ locally resident labour. This came after years of arguing that those who were out of work were either too choosy or simply did not want to work.”

Oh that Caruana’s Gibraltar existed in reality and not just within his haven at Number Six. He obviously takes it out for walks on occasion, even to London, what a pity that gullible politicians like Mr Hannan believe all they are told and don’t question what is fact and what is fiction.

A suggestion: next time you enjoy the chief minister’s hospitality, Mr Hannan, ask him about Gibraltar’s 500,000 million pound debt. In his July budget speech the Leader of the Opposition, Fabian Picardo, said that equalled 23,762 pounds per voter. The UK’s Office for National Statistics put British debt at 33,100 pounds per household, so far lower than Gibraltar’s. When you mention that to the chief minister Mr Hannan make sure he isn’t eating a sausage roll!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The former Minister for Europe in the Labour Government between 2002 - 2005, Denis MacShane, has written an article “Una nueva era” in the Spanish daily El Mundo. One might question why a socialist MP is writing in a newspaper that is to the extreme right of the political spectrum but then MacShane was a Blairite, so a Thatcherite with a smile.

I have crossed swords with Mr MacShane before. In the great Pantheon of politicians he would be a cleaner. You might ask would I rate the chief minister higher? Indeed I would, he would be at least a doorman.

The article has aroused a lot of interest not because of its basic thesis on USA – Spanish relations after the signing of the agreement under which Rota will be used as a base for NATO’s anti-missile shield. Rather because of a few lines out of eleven paragraphs in which MacShane writes: “Londres tiene que custionarse ahora sis u negative a discutir un acuerdo sobre Gibraltar tiene algún sentido estratégico.” Yes the venerable MacShane writes in Spanish.

There are two aspects to his article. The first suggests that the accord between the USA and Spain is a blow to the so-called US – British ‘special relationship’ because now Madrid is Washington’s best friend and not London. Hardly so. It also goes on to argue that because Rota has been honoured with this role it is to the detriment of Gibraltar – “La nueva base relegará la de la Royal Navy en Gibraltar a un apostadero de segundo nivel, para reparaciones y escalas de descanso del personal.”

In reality Rota has been a US naval base since 1953 (the US airbase at Moron just 75 miles away opened the same year). Under the accord four new U.S. ships will be based in Rota from 2013 as part of NATO’s anti-missile security shield. This will bring 1,100 more American families to the area – 3,400 people in total – and will create about 1,000 direct and indirect jobs. A good deal for Rota but hardly world changing.

Due to political pressure from Madrid, as has been revealed in the Wikileaks papers, US Naval vessels have largely by-passed Gibraltar for Rota. The US Naval Attaché has long since set sail from the Rock and the arrival of one of its warships is a rare event indeed. Hence whether the US sets up its base in Rota or Tangier would not make one iota of difference to Gibraltar. If MacShane is right and the US Navy will now dock at the Rock for repairs as well as ‘R and R’ that would be a welcome development.

The second aspect is because of what MacShane sees as disastrous development in US – UK relations (which is a fallacy) London and Madrid should talk about Gibraltar and do a deal. Obviously MacShane learnt nothing during his period as Minister of Europe when he was Gibraltar’s minister.

As MacShane well knows the future of Gibraltar is not a matter for London and Madrid but one for the people of the Rock alone to self-determine. London has not been negative with Madrid on this issue; it is just the British government has grasped the reality that has escaped MacShane. Gibraltar is not a pawn on the international chess board to be moved around or sacrificed in the interests of US – British – Spanish relations. It is a nation, albeit small, whose people enjoy all the rights of other peoples be they British, Spanish or US citizens. Sadly confused politicians such as MacShane wander around bumping in to reality as they go but learning nothing.

Put Down In Parliament:

The following exchange on Tuesday October 18 took place between the Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, and MacShane – obviously the new minister does not suffer this fool lightly either.

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman is the seventh Secretary of State since the conflict started, and we all wish him well. The statements, though, have not changed, even if Secretaries of State have come and gone. We hear about cautious optimism, determinism, determination and some interesting development statistics, then the next Secretary of State comes along and repeats the same statements. May I urge him to be the first one to grab hold of strategy and tactics from our 250-odd generals and ensure that whatever presence we maintain in Afghanistan, there are no more funeral cavalcades through Royal Wootton Bassett? Our men should stop being Taliban target practice.

Mr Hammond: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. He may detect a similarity in the statements, and I may detect a similarity in his questions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


The Spanish General Election will soon be upon us (November 20) and one familiar name will be missing from the hustings for the Senate in Cádiz province. José Carracao, Pepe to his many friends both side of the border, has decided he will not be running to retain his seat for the sixth time for PSOE. As the socialists seem set for a drubbing it may be a wise move but his political career does stretch back over three decades and he is now of retirement age – perhaps you could call him the Joe Bossano of PSOE.

Apart from the fact we are both socialists Pepe and myself are also jimenatos by adoption at least. He was the mayor of Jimena, president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar and then a five term senator in Spain’s Upper House – perhaps politics enough for any man or woman.

Of course in recent years because of his special relationship with the Campo de Gibraltar and indeed Gibraltar itself the Spanish Government chose him to be their man on the spot to represent it in cross border affairs.

In his role as senator he has worked hard for the Campo de Gibraltar. He has helped attract heavy industry to the area, pushed for the installation of natural gas to homes, worked with the Partido Popular government of the day as well as being the driving force behind the construction of the A-381 Jerez to Los Barrios road and the making in to four lanes the N-340 between Algeciras and Vejer.

Although Pepe is now thought of working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Gibraltar his first stint was with the Ministry of Defence. For Spain as for Britain and wider NATO the Straits zone is of major strategic importance.

Pepe has been a strong supporter of the Dialogue Forum and says he does not believe it is dead even thought there are not likely to be any new talks this side of the Spanish and Gibraltarian elections. He is confident that whether PSOE or the PP win in Spain the process will continue. Pepe admits it will be difficult to see how the current process would fare under the PP because of the views they have aired against it but he has no doubt that dialogue will go on in one form or another. He also believes the old formula of two flags and three voices is dead in the water and the world has moved on.

The senator has in the past had strong words to say about the chief minister but applauds him for agreeing that Spain has the right to submit proposals for the future of the colony (if Gibraltar still is a colony that is. Discuss).

With a general election in the offing in Gibraltar does Pepe believe that will herald a change in relations with Spain. He says not as all the parties on the Rock are agreed that Britain should not return the Rock to Spain. Yes intriguingly he is of the opinion that there are people in Gibraltar, who do not speak out publically, but want an accord with Spain because it would benefit both communities. Of whom does he speak? Caruana? Los Palomos?

Pepe also believes Fabian Picardo has great potential to become the next chief minister of Gibraltar. He has marked him down as a friendly person with whom Spain would want to draw up lines of collaboration but he is fully aware that on the sovereignty issue Picardo clasps to his heart and soul the “No Surrender!” mantra.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is one of the great ministries of State of the British Government. For many years it followed its own course and the Mandarins who rule there still consider themselves a superior species apart from the elected government of the day who are mere politicians regardless of what party they serve.
This is an important fact for Gibraltarians to grasp and understand. In theory no British Government would seek to foist a future on the people of the Rock without their total agreement. That protection is enshrined in Gibraltar’s Constitution. Forget what happened in 2001 and 2002, as history will no doubt show the British Government was duped in to believing Gibraltar would agree.
In contrast the Foreign Office would have handed Gibraltar over to Spain without a batting of an eyelid any time over the past 50 years. It wants to see total harmony exist between London and Madrid and the issue of the Rock is a major annoyance. It is the Foreign Office that blocks any Royal visits of stature to Gibraltar not the government and certainly not the Royal Household.
So when we come to Gibraltar’s territorial waters and responsibility for them in environmental matters being given to Spain we should not be surprised. This would have been a matter for the Foreign Office. It is said Britain first applied for waters off Algeria having got its map references wrong. Whether that is true or not it is quite clear the whole matter was a complete mess and trying to blame the EU is rather disingenuous.
Brussels has a simple rule for Gibraltar. It knows where it is but whilst Britain has jurisdiction, Spain makes a sovereignty claim so the EU steers clear and lets both governments sort it out. So when a bureaucrat in Brussels is assigning waters and looks at the bay and eastern side of the Rock and Spain says they are Madrid’s – unless Britain is monitoring the situation as it should it gets nodded through. It is not the EU system that is at fault but the Foreign office.
Gibraltar’s waters have a three mile limit, it could under international law claim 12 miles but the Foreign Office would never follow that route. Gibraltar’s international rights take second place to what pleases Madrid. When a Spanish navy or Guardia Civil vessel encroaches in to Gibraltar’s waters it is the Foreign Office that should make a loud protest – but does it? Well we know all too well the answer to that one. In the defence of Gibraltar the Foreign Office is speechless.
Of course William Hague and David Miliband, the two most recent Foreign Secretaries, may say this and may say that, but they are transient politicians. The day to day power and actions do not lie with them but with those senior Mandarins who control Britain’s international strings. Just watch one episode of ‘Yes Minister’ and all will be revealed.
In recent years the Civil Service has kicked up a fuss as first Labour and then the Conservative Governments imported political advisors to their ministers. These outsiders are mistrusted by the Mandarins and with good reason. They sit in the ministry’s offices, watch and hear everything but they are there to serve the minister and not the system. Yet Mandarins are wily beasts and still rule the Foreign Office roost.
So Gibraltarians have to be on their guard because whilst the British Government of the day pledges solidarity with the people of the Rock – and means it – at the same time the Foreign Office is following a different agenda and is no friend of Gibraltar’s. So we have to be very clear: what the British Government says is one thing – what the Foreign Office does is another.