Britain has always had a large number of citizens who would describe themselves as euro sceptics. However in contrast Spain has gained so much from its entry to the EC that the people have been firmly behind the European project. However with the economic crisis all that has changed dramatically.
In a survey carried out by the Pew Research Centre 30 per cent of Britons are satisfied with the direction their country is taking but 65 per cent are dissatisfied. In Spain the satisfieds make up only 10 per cent of the population and a far higher percentage, 88, are not happy at all.
In Britain in 2007 52 per cent of people viewed Europe favourably compared with a massive 80 per cent in Spain. This year the UK rating is down seven percent at 45 but the support in Spain has collapsed by 20 per cent to 60.
In the corruption stakes Britons believe Italy is the most corrupt country (38 per cent) followed by Greece on 30 but only 13 per cent believe Spain is corrupt, one per cent more than think their own country is. Gibraltarians will cast a wry smile over that assessment and agree more with Spaniards themselves who view things very differently. They give their own country and Italy a 63 per cent corruption rating with Greece just on 24.
In 2007 30 per cent of Britons were satisfied with their country, the same figure as this year. Fifty-one percent of Spaniards were satisfied in 2007 but that has tumbled by minus 41 per cent to just ten per cent.
The contentment with the economic situation in both countries follows a similar dip. In 2007 69 per cent of Britons were satisfied, now just 15 per cent are, a drop of 54 per cent. In Spain the 2007 figure was 65 per cent and is now six, a drop of 59 per cent.
However the attitude of Spaniards to the EC and indeed the euro has many implications for Gibraltar. In recent months concern has been raised here over the UK holding a referendum to leave the EC (which hopefully Gibraltarians would have a vote in) and how would the Rock fair outside of the union should the vote be for withdrawal.
We also need to watch trends across the border. Willie Walsh the supremo of the united British Airways – Iberia conglomerate revealed they are holding senior meetings on a weekly basis to plan for Spain’s withdrawal from the euro. Everybody knew Spain was in a financial mess but leaving the euro has never been previously discussed.
What if that did happen and in turn Spain decided it would quit the EC? The implications for Gibraltar could be massive. We may not have been particularly well served by Brussels on matters relating to Spain but if our neighbours become a rogue state without any checks or balances then we could be in very dangerous waters indeed.