Divide and Rule has been a strategy used by governments and their ambassadors since Roman times when it was known as ‘divide et impera’: divide and conquer is another variation.
The statement by the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of St James, Federico Trillo, is another typical example of this ancient ploy. The centre right Partido Popular government, stung by its Conservative led coalition counterpart in London refusal to enter in to bilateral talks on Gibraltar, is bent on causing mischief.
This year David Cameron has made the strongest statements ever by a British Prime Minister on the right of Gibraltar to self determine its own future whilst also insisting no talks would be held with Spain without Gibraltar’s agreement.
He is not alone. Cameron’s words have been echoed by both the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and his Minister for Europe, David Lidington. So either these members of the British Government are involved in the biggest deception towards Gibraltar ever or Federico Trillo is being mischievous (but may be not totally lying).
I do not believe the British Government is deceiving Gibraltar for one very simple reason that has nothing to do with the Rock: the Falklands. London sees direct linkage between Argentina’s claim to the Malvinas and Spain’s insistence on the Gibraltar Español dogma. Hence when London proclaims “no surrender” it means it because the Falklands is sitting on liquid gold and is a handy staging post to extract valuable mineral deposits in the South Pole region. Give way on Gibraltar and you loosen your hold on the Falklands. You didn’t believe it was about democracy did you?
I did however say that Trillo might not be totally wrong. Trillo is an ambassador and not a politician. Hence it is quite possible that he is involved with bilateral shenanigans with his opposite number in Madrid or indeed Mandarins at the Foreign Office. In the world of diplomacy anything could be going on and I doubt whether even Cameron or Hague are aware of it. Yes Minister still rules ok?
There is a valid view that says that the Gibraltar Government should demand Trillo withdraws his statements but I am not sure if that is productive or not. It might just give the wily ambassador more scope for mischief. He may be testing the water, Spanish waters of course, to see what disquiet he can cause. Also should we throw a rock at him every time he pops his head over the wall and shouts Gibraltar Español or simply ignore him?
At the end of the day it is for London to deny there are any bilateral talks going on and to restate its position on Gibraltar. Also if Cameron and Rajoy or Hague and Margallo meet and the Spanish side raises Gibraltar that is bilateral – even if Britain restates its stout defence of the Rock’s interests and right to self determination.
There has to be trust between No 10 and No 6 and I believe that exists. I do not believe that Cameron or Hague are out to stab Picardo or Gibraltar in the back. I know they are politicians but I do believe the British Government’s staunch defence of Gibraltar’s right to self determination for the reasons I have already stated.
So Trillo will try and destabilise that trust: and is he talking bilaterally over fino and chorizo to Whitehall Mandarins in a Knightsbridge tapas bar? Probably.