Britain’s spat with Spain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar escalated sharply over the weekend after Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the Government would go “all the way” to defend The Rock. Former Tory leader Lord Howard played his own part by suggesting that Theresa May would show the “same resolve” over Gibraltar as Baroness Thatcher did over the Falkland Islands in 1982. It was only a matter of time then before the Prime Minister stepped in to defuse tensions, telling reporters that she preferred “ jaw-jaw rather than war-war” and that common sense would “win through” once Spain realised “a good deal for the UK is good for us”.
Spain didn’t win much favour from Gibraltar after persuading the EU to give it an effective veto over the terms of any final trade deal applying to it that emerges over the Brexit talks. Fabian Picardo, its chief minister, compared their actions to a “ cuckolded husband who is taking it out on the children“. So why did Spain do it? It’s due to Gibraltar’s airport, Peter Foster writes. “ It has a separate demand over the isthmus that contains the airport,” he notes, “arguing that it was not included in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 that ceded Gibraltar to the UK “in perpetuity”…This gambit over the EU-UK Brexit deal gives Madrid the perfect mechanism with which to press its case.”
Spain hasn’t just sought to wind up the UK Government by renewing its claim on GIbraltar, it has also given the SNP a boost. Foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis declared that the Spanish would not veto any application by an independent Scotland to join the EU, undermining the assumption that they would stop their re-entry in order to discourage their own separatists in Catalonia. Nicola Sturgeon might be delighted by this concession, Tom Harris writes, but it could present her opponents with a gift. “Can you imagine the Unionist campaign’s posters? ‘We want Scottish fishing to be run from Scotland – why does Nicola Sturgeon want it to be run from Brussels?'”
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