Spain's silly season silliness over Gibraltar

Spain is rapidly getting tangled in a ‘lose-lose’ situation. The people suffering most from the "blockade" of the border crossing are the Spanish workers who travel to Gibraltar every day

by Robin Mitchinson on 14 August 2013 13:18

Boris Johnson has said the obvious; that this whole spat is a diversion from the dreadful problems facing the economy plus corruption accusations in high political circles to which the Royal Family has been linked.

And this ploy cuts both ways.

William Hague has been excoriated in the media for being ‘weak’; for having a foreign policy that consists mainly of reading out scripts from the State Department. Here is his chance to gainsay that. This could also be Dave’s ‘Falklands’ moment, enabling him to show that he is not just a slimy PR man, as James Delingpole described him in his Telegraph blog last week, but that he does actually have cojones.

Spain is rapidly getting tangled in a ‘lose-lose’ situation.

The people suffering most from the "blockade" of the border crossing are the Spanish workers who travel to Gibraltar every day. This is just about the poorest region in Spain, with an unemployment rate high even by Spain’s abysmal standards.

The Spanish are not the most temperate of people. How long before tempers snap? It also looks as if it is awakening the dormant Catalonia issue, about the last thing Spain needs in its present condition.

The UK is threatening to invoke EU law. As one might expect, this is full of ambiguity and success is not guaranteed. But there could be a piquant twist. Spain may retaliate by invoking the Treaty of Utrecht 1713, but by doing so they would admit to its current authority and legality. And both Spaniards and Gibraltarians might apply to the European Court of Human Rights.

Just to make matters worse, Spain is now trying to set up a two pronged challenge in alliance with Argentina, bringing the Falklands back onto the international agenda. Any concession by Dave under these circumstances would be political death.

If the dispute ends up with the European Court of Justice and it rules in favour of Spain, UKIP will be doing handstands and Dave’s referendum will be a foregone conclusion.

Brussels must be aghast. Dealing with disputes by force is a negation of one of the founding principles of the Union. The ‘north’ will be very unhappy.

If an adverse impact on the Spanish tourist trade, perhaps exacerbated  by a UK surcharge on flights to Spain, causes the economy to tank even further, they will have to pick up the tab. No wonder we call this ‘the silly season’.

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