If you have heard the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth if may have been Gibraltar’s hard-working MEP Sir Graham Watson fearing his re-election chances next May have been washed down the pan by one Andrew Duff MEP.
Of course if it wasn’t for the fact that Sir Graham is a gentleman the sounds of agony might have been the said Duff being run through with the Lib-Dem knight’s sword.
The Lib Dem vote in Gibraltar could have been dealt a severe blow thanks to the bizarre article “Goodbye to the Gibraltar Problem” by Andrew Duff MEP – who represents the East of England for that party. It appears Duff has just returned from holiday and given his baldpate probably didn’t wear a sun hat so his brain was fried.
Apparently Duff is an expert on Gibraltar. What’s going on at the moment is a “petty little spat” and all the fault of Fabian Picardo. The MEP tells his readers that “while the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 settled the sovereignty of the rock on Great Britain, nothing was established about control of the coastal sea.”
What Duff fails to tell his readers is that the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea gives Britain the right to claim up to 12 miles for British Gibraltar Territorial Waters although the current limit stands at three miles, the tradition before the treaty came in to force. Even Franco recognised this but not the Duff.
He then goes on to tell his readers: “Uncharacteristically, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, reacted badly. Spanish border controls were increased and traffic delays lengthened. More was threatened, including the imposition of a 50 euro fee for crossing the border. There is certainly good evidence of smuggling and Gibraltar is known to be a centre for money laundering, so strict border controls are wholly reasonable.” Is that the Gibraltar Sir Graham represents?
The solution to the problem, says Duff, lies with the Schengen Agreement. He adds that the British being “proud islanders as we are, have refused to enter the Schengen area” which is of course Spain’s justification for having a border and controls at La Línea. He then goes on: “it would be perfectly possible to negotiate an exemption from the British opt-out for Gibraltar.” There’s more: “If Gibraltar was to join Schengen, the petty nationalists would be deprived of their soap box.”
Seemingly Duff sees no contradiction in the British being allowed to be “proud islanders” but the Gibraltarians not being able to be “proud Gibraltarians”.
Obviously Duff didn’t run his entire article through with the Spanish embassy or his beloved Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo because to paraphrase our Chief Minister - Hell would freeze over before Spain would allow Gibraltar to join Schengen independently. It would even put up one hell of a fight if the UK opted in. Andrew is clearly up the Duff.
The question is will this one man’s Lib Dem view of Gibraltar affect his party’s vote here in next May’s Euro elections. My suspicion is it won’t and here’s why.
First Gibraltarians are both a sophisticated people and electorate. They know that one lose cannon’s words are not necessarily representative of the party he is a member of. Peter Hain is loathed by Gibraltarians but Glyn Ford, who is number 2 on the Labour list for next May’s euro poll, gave sterling service to Gibraltar during his term as our MEP. Gibraltar has many loyal and staunch friends in Labour: it is Hain who is our pain.
Second Sir Graham deserves to be judged on his record and the plain fact is that Gibraltar has no finer or active advocate that this Lib Dem MEP. No other MEP has worked as hard for the Rock as Sir Graham and it would be a travesty if the Duff intervention counted against him.
Credit has also to be given to the Conservative – Lib Dem Government for staunchly defending Gibraltar against Spain’s aggression and our right to self-determination. I wonder what Duff’s “home-grown nationalists” – David Cameron and William Hague – who “were quick to climb on to the bandwagon” make of his words?
If there is justice in this world then the voters in the East of England will dump their duff MEP next May. I am sure the Partido Popular will find room for him in their ranks.