HANDY GUIDE TO GIBRALTAR

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Is Gibraltar a colony?

No – its official status is a British Overseas Territory – it stopped being a colony in 1981 when Gibraltarians were granted full UK citizenship rights.

The other BOTs are Akrotiri and Dhekelia (also with borders with another EU country, Cyprus); Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Island; Montserrat; Pitcairn Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Turks and Caicos Islands

 

Is Gibraltar part of the United Kingdom?

No, it has its own elected government and is not represented in the UK parliament. The UK Government is responsible for its foreign affairs, with input from the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and Defence. The head of state is the Queen, who is represented by a Governor on the Rock.

 

If Gibraltar is not part of the UK, why did Gibraltarians vote in the Referendum?

Gibraltar is part of the European Union and is represented by an MEP as part of the South West England constituency.

 

Is Gibraltar an island?

No, it is a tiny peninsula measuring 2.6 square miles or 6.7 km on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, with a land border with Spain to the north. At 1.2 km it is the shortest land border in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

 

Are Gibraltarians Spanish?

Gibraltarians have their origins in Italy, Malta and Portugal as well as Spain, Britain and Ireland, as well as Morocco (Jews and Muslims) and India (Hindus).

 

But if the Gibraltarians voted almost unanimously to remain in the EU, why don’t they just become Spanish?

Because the overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians are determined to remain British and this supersedes membership of the European Union.

 

Why are Gibraltarians so hell-bent on remaining British?

They have been British for over 300 years – that’s longer than the USA has existed. They have strong links with Britain, English is the official language, they share traditions, a British education and legal systems, administration and institutions. There is a deep – rooted mistrust of the Spanish authorities for historical reasons – the complete closure of the border by the Franco regime in the late 1960s and the politically motivated restrictions on cross – border movement since it reopened in 1985. The EU has tempered these restrictions; in fact, the reopening of the border was one of the preconditions for Spain’s entry in the EU. The persistent, centuries – old Spanish claim over the territory of Gibraltar often re-emerges in the Spanish media as a convenient diversion from internal problems – the slogan “Gibraltar español” hits the national spot with a great majority of Spaniards. This anachronistic claim – which persistently ignores the democratic wishes of the Gibraltarian people, has further alienated the population on the Rock.

 

Why can’t Gibraltar just become independent?

Although many Gibraltarians do like the idea of independence, this option is not available to them in the current circumstances. In the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain “in perpetuity” or until Britain decides to relinquish it. In such an event, the treaty states that Spain would have first dibs on the territory.

“And in case it shall hereafter seem meet to the Crown of Great Britain to grant, sell or by any means to alienate therefrom the propriety of the said town of Gibraltar, it is hereby agreed and concluded that the preference of having the sale shall always be given to the Crown of Spain before any others.”

 

Is Gibraltar part of Spain?

The territory is part of the Iberian Peninsula, so it can only be considered “a part of Spain” if Portugal is also part of Spain, Denmark is part of Germany, Monaco is part of France, Alaska is part of Canada, etc. Territorial integrity does not mean ownership.

 

Doesn’t Spain have a point? Isn’t Gibraltar a colonial anachronism?

The Spanish might have a point if the local population were being ruled by Britain against their will. Although many have Spanish roots and connections, the population has developed over more than 300 years with its distinct identity, comparable to any product of colonialism and migration over a similar period. See also the 2002 and 1969 referendum results where 99% voted to remain British. The Gibraltarians today feel they have an inalienable right to self – determination, as expressed in their National Day Celebrations on September the 10th, when the Gibraltar flag is prominently on display as well as the Union Jack.

 

How strong is opinion about Gibraltar in Spain?

“Gibraltar español” sentiments are mainly expressed openly by right – wing elements of the PP (ruling party) and extreme right wing nationalists. It seems however that Spanish schoolchildren over many years have been taught that “territorial integrity” in the case of Gibraltar is a matter of national pride that needs to be restored. Relations between Gibraltarians and Spaniards are generally good at a local level – in the social, commercial, cultural and political spheres of cross – border communities.

 

What are the possible scenarios post Brexit?

Joint sovereignty – UK reaches an agreement with the EU in return for granting Spain joint sovereignty – this would lead to free cross – border movement but Gibraltarians fear this would be the first step towards a loss of their distinctive identity.

Closed border – UK leaves the EU without a deal, Spain closes the border

Hard border – UK leaves the EU without a deal, Spain tightens border controls and makes it difficult or impossible for people living in Spain to work in Gibraltar, and people living in Gibraltar to cross to Spain

Status quo – Spain agrees to maintain status quo even if UK leaves the EU; seemingly free cross – border movement despite some annoying restrictions, but business as usual.

 

Why is Gibraltar strategically important to Britain?

Gibraltar is at the gateway to the Mediterranean. Gibraltar’s communication systems, runway facilities and harbour make it an important base for NATO. During the Second World War the civilian population of women, children and the elderly was evacuated to Britain, Madeira, Tangier (until the French capitulated,) Northern Ireland, and Jamaica in the first year of the Second World War. Britain needed to billet thousands of military personnel in the strategic fortress town which was under threat of capture by German troops in North Africa. Gibraltarian men were made to stay behind to help run Gibraltar and to assist the troops. It was a defining era in Gibraltarian history, endured at great personal cost to local families. Some Gibraltarians were killed in the Blitz in London and all evacuees were separated from their men for years – it took up to seven years after the war to repatriate them all. Additionally the Naval Base in Gibraltar and the ships based there played a key role in the provisioning and supply of the island of Malta during its long siege.

From 1940-1942 the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy fought off attacks from Italian and German forces trying to capture the strategically important island of Malta.

 

Is there really any risk of the UK and Spain going to war?

No, because they are both members of NATO.

 

Fun Facts:

Gibraltar is derived from the Arabic name for the rock, Jebel Tarik, named after Tarik Ibn Ziyad, the Moorish conqueror of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Moors ruled the rock from 711 to 1462. The Spanish held it from 1462 to 1704. The British conquered it in 1704 and have ruled it since 1713: longer than many leading countries have been in existence.

Famous Gibraltarians: John Galliano, Albert Hammond, Dr. Eva Carneiro, John Oates from “Daryl Hall & John Oates” (paternal grandmother was Gibraltarian.)

Claims to fame: Ulysses, the Barbary Apes, Ballad of John and Yoko, Battle of Trafalgar, Prudential logo

Gibraltar is only 6.8 kilometres squared (2.6 mile s squared) however…

Gibraltar has around 55 kilometres (34 miles) of tunnels inside the Rock, nearly twice the length of its entire road network.

 

Courtesy of Ilana Benady and Helen Wade.