Why don’t we just give the bloody thing back? If you ever want to get to the bottom of the complicated geopolitical conundrum about the ownership of Gibraltar, then the best way is to simply look at a map! It is impossible to misinterpret – Gibraltar is as Spanish as any other part of Spain. The UK government, for all of its recent quivering over the sovereignty of this rock, is actually a relatively blameless player in this. In 2002, the UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw tried to engineer a joint sovereignty over Gibraltar between the UK and Spain. The obstacle: the supposed “nationalism” of the Gibraltarians, who held a referendum to assert what they saw as their self-determination. 98% voted against joint sovereignty. Gibraltarian protesters booed a visiting Straw for being a “traitor” and a “Judas.”
Regular readers will know that Tychy is fundamentally opposed to nationalism, viewing it as the most degenerate of all ideological standpoints. In Scotland, nationalism is these days typically manifested in the bizarre fantasy that a call centre worker in Manchester is somehow mystically different to one in Glasgow, even though they both share the same language, media, culture, and socioeconomic circumstances. But with Gibraltar we set foot in the most infuriating maze of nonsense. It offers the perfect example of how nationalism can drive people completely mad.
The dot has gone dotty! 30,000 people live in Gibraltar – to put this in perspective, Kirkcaldy has a population of 49,000. Just imagine that Kirkcaldy one day decided that it was really Mongolian and that it subsequently made an appeal to the government of Mongolia for military protection. You will surely recognise in less time than it takes to blink that such a scenario is, alas, not very practical. Why, Kirkcaldy could conduct itself as a Mongolian cultural satellite, with its citizens living in yurts, quaffing fermented horse milk, and holding throat-singing contests. For this self-determination to be legally accredited, however, would not fit into the way that our world is run. A nation has to have some loose geographical logic to it – you cannot subscribe to a nation from anywhere in the world, as though it was a magazine.
When the mind turns to Gibraltar, and its pretensions to be British, then why does this common sense often seem to inexplicably malfunction? There is generally an attitude of “well, they say that they are British and so they have to be!” Yet Gibraltar’s British nationalism is actually far more paradoxical than any Mongolian aspirations on the part of Kirkcaldy. The UK is a parliamentary democracy and Gibraltar, as a self-governing ornament of the Crown, does not send an MP to our parliament. Fraser Nelson is wrong to glibly state in today’s Spectator that people in the UK “are rather sensitive about the protection of fellow citizens [in Gibraltar].” The Gibraltarians are remote subjects of our monarch rather than “fellow citizens” in our democracy. Gibraltar in fact plays no political or cultural role in the life of our country.
Instead, the Gibraltarians try to make out that they are British nationalists with their own independent nationalism. Ludicrously, these 30,000 people have their own “constitution” (I think that it is printed on a tea towel). Ridiculously, they have their own parliament, which meets every Thursday night in a room above a fish and chip shop. They have a cabinet with ministers, though, with talent in short supply, the current Secretary of State for Education is a Barbary macaque. I’m going to have to stop making stuff up, because you’re not going to believe that Gibraltar’s “deputy chief minister” Dr Joseph Garcia really went on a state visit to Washington DC last month. From the coverage of Gibraltar’s national newspaper and community newsletter The Gibraltar Chronicle, it sounds like he was received politely.
Along with the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and every other querulous nationalist movement, the Gibraltarians voted in droves to remain members of the European Union, an organisation that holds genuine self-determination in almost pathological contempt. Even if we discount this hypocrisy, then Gibraltar, however democratic it might be at a townhall level, can only ever achieve a pitiful travesty of self-determination. The Gibraltarians are forever petitioning a faraway government, which they do not vote for, to guarantee their security, rather than having any input into the parliamentary democracy that is meant to be integral to British nationalism in the first place!
Enough of this nonsense! Gibraltar is not a country – it is a pothole! There is no such thing as Gibraltarians, or at least not in the same way that there is such a thing as Russians and Arabs! In light of the solidarity that should exist between the UK and Spain, between two nations of millions of people, this thirty-thousand-strong awkward squad should know its place! The UK government might be unable to renounce its sovereignty of Gibraltar (it is presumably the Queen’s sovereignty as well), but it should issue no further comment about the rock. We should withdraw all of the troops who are pointlessly monkeying about there. And this township that has plunged into a hysterical hallucinatory phantasmagoria of national paraphernalia should have to negotiate its own existence with the Spanish authorities. Meekly!
Perhaps I can offer a proposal to any sensible Gibraltarians. Over the weekend, pretty images of the Rock of Gibraltar have adorned the UK’s newspapers, and I could not help being struck by its resemblance to Edinburgh’s own Arthur’s Seat. There is an estate at the foot of the Salisbury Crags – I am sure that they could slap up a few extra tenements to house the Gibraltarian nation in Dumbiedykes.