If in December 2011 Gibraltar had returned again a GSD government would we be going through the current crisis with Spain? The answer is of course we simply do not know but we can make some educated guesses.
The first observation to make is that the problems with Spain are not new. They have been going on for over three hundred years, for a period we saw the border closed and usually when the Partido Popular are in power there’s a more forceful chanting of the Gibraltar Español mantra. So the fact that we have endured a long hot summer is nothing unique.
What we can probably say with certainty is that if we now had a GSD government the accord with the local fishermen, which has seen them break Gibraltarian law with impunity. would not have been rescinded. It therefore follows that the reef would not have been placed in our territorial waters because Gibraltar would not have had a proactive environmental policy.
So if you believe the summer campaign by Spain was caused by the reef and generated by the scrapping of the illegal fishing accord shortly after the GSLP Liberals came in to government you might argue all would be peace and harmony.
However the fact is the fishing accord and reef were only the excuses that Madrid needed and not the root cause. The Partido Popular spent two terms in opposition plotting how to both dismantle PSOE’s international treaties with Gibraltar and also how to instil Gibraltar Español as a central plank of its “foreign” policy. On being elected around the same time as our own Government it made its intentions crystal clear so the crisis should be no surprise to anyone.
Having first defended the eight hour border queues as punishment for the reef laying Madrid quickly changed tack and declared it was to prevent smuggling. This pasodoble was because the Spanish Government realised it could not defend the abusive queues by pointing at a reef at the end of the runway buried metres under British Gibraltarian waters. So it became official: the border chaos has nothing to do with the fishing dispute or the reef - it’s all about tobacco.
One of the measures that Margallo has threatened Gibraltar with is the toll. This, of course, is nothing new for it first made its appearance when we had a GSD government. Indeed the then maverick PP mayor of La Línea, Alejandro Sánchez, who is now said to be guiding the Spanish Government’s “dirty tricks on Gibraltar department” in Madrid, went much further than mere suggestions. Indeed I suspect the concrete lane markings he laid out as you enter La Línea can still be seen to this day. Sánchez is foe to both GSD and GSLP chief ministers alike. ¡Gibraltar Español! is emblazoned on his t-shirt.
So what are the other issues that Rajoy and Margallo take with Gibraltar? Well chief amongst them is the Córdoba Accord which was the shining policy of the GSD. There’s tobacco, bunkering, all matters financial, phone lines, the sovereignty of our waters and air space, land reclamation, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. None of these are new and all existed under the GSD and would exist now. They are a target for Madrid whoever is in power here.
Even when the fishing accord was in place the Guardia Civil still made incursions in to our waters. Indeed during the GSD era they even landed, shopped in Main Street, bought monkey t-shirts for the kids, purchased cartons of cigarettes in black plastic bags and stashed a bottle of whisky not DYC down their trousers before heading home. OK I made the very last bit up but you get my gist.
The fact is the current crisis with Spain is nothing to do about fishing, nothing to do about the reef, little to do with Bárcenas or the PP’s other corruption scandals, little to do either with that country’s economic crisis but everything to do with Gibraltar Español. The crisis would have come whoever was in power only its timing may have been different.
There are several good things to come out of the summer heat. The vicious campaign, especially in the Spanish media, against our Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, shows how little the Spaniards understand Gibraltarians or the British. The aim was to make us turn against our leader and for Westminster to disown him. The opposite has happened. Gibraltarians have rallied to his side and the British Government has never been a stronger ally. British Gibraltar rules ok!
The crisis also means that much of what we have suffered in silence over the years is now out in the open. Brussels is involved on a number of fronts as well too could be the international courts and even the UN before the year is out. The fascist Gibraltar Español policy of the PP will be shown up for what it is and if we play our cards right Gibraltar can emerge stronger not weaker.
One Gibraltar, one Rock, one people.