Monday, April 03, 2017
The Empire bites back
Michael Howard's lunatic hint that Britain could go to war with "Spanish-speaking" Spain over Gibraltar shows just how far the Brexit extremists have got so carried away with their referendum victory. The absurdity of talking about a friend and ally as a possible target for military action in defense of a British colony shows that in 2005, Britain was right to reject the Howard-led Conservative party in the general election of that year. Remember his campaign slogan: "Are you thinking what we're thinking?" To which the answer hopefully is "Definitely Not!"
The serious point is that many on the extreme Brexit side live in the same nightmare fantasy world of Michael Howard in which the model for the future is some kind of imaginary superpower status. It is a fantasy in which Britain extends her influence throughout the world free of European commitments, recreating some sort of 21st century British imperial role. And then the reality of commitments in Europe bits back. Gibraltar flourishes on free movement of labour and open borders, the direct opposite of what Theresa May is determined to impose. Being in the EU means sharing sovereignty on a number of issues and agreeing to accept borders and drop territorial claims. Spain suspended its claim to Gibraltar when she joined the EU. Now it is back on the agenda through no fault of the people of the Rock. They did, after all, vote 95% remain.
If we go through with a hard Brexit, we will then be in the absurd situation in which French Guiana in South America is part of the EU and Single Market, while Gibraltar, on the edge of Europe, is excluded. That may be the desired outcome for the Brexit extremists. For the people of Gibraltar, it is an absurdly expensive price to pay for Britain (but not Gibraltar) to "take back control."