Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, April 14, 2017



For the second time this month, the Spanish Navy has crossed into British territorial waters. At question is an enormous patrol boat called the Infanta Cristina.  The vessel has sailed past the centuries-old demarcation, separating Gibraltar from Spain. When asked for a motive for the incursion, Spain's foreign ministry quipped they didn't recognize the waters as belonging to Gibraltar and that their boat was on a routine patrol.

No so fast! British Prime Minister Theresa May was quick to remind Spain of Article 10 in the Treaty of Utrecht. Both nations signed the pact back in 1713, ceding the island and said territorial waters to the United Kingdom. Spain instantly regretted this, and tried to regain control a dozen years later. A six-month siege failed. Fifty years later, when England was busy fighting rebelling American colonists, Spain tried again to siege Gibraltar...and came up short. Two centuries later, the chaos of World War II served as an opportunity to grab the colony. Again they failed.

Readers are wondering: Why is Spain again trying to claim Gibraltar today? What world event is giving them another chance? The answer is Brexit! The logic is simple: By pulling out of the EU, Great Britain is also pulling out of all agreements, including the 300 year-old Treaty of Utrecht. Many in the UK scoff at this, reminding the EU of their constitutional duties to let people chose their sovereignty. In 2002, 98% of Gibraltarians voted to stay in the United Kingdom. Just ask Fabian Picardo, the colony's Chief Minister. "Unnecessary, unjustified and unacceptable," he clamored. "Spain's unusual obsession with Gibraltar must end!"

Just why is Spain so occupied with the dream of taking back Gibraltar? Although tiny (a mere 2.6 square miles), the symbolism of owning "The Rock" is powerful. Just ask Prudential Insurance Company. Their logo features a drawing of the domineeringly large 1,398 foot limestone promontory. First called the Pillars of Hercules, it was renamed Jabal-al-Tariq (Tariq's Mountain) in the year 711. This is when the Moors invaded Europe. This name has stuck and Gibraltar remains one of the world's most recognizable mountains...a Herculean symbol of strength.

The conflict is a simple reminder of a rivalry that has never been forgotten. We've got the world's two largest colonial powers going at it again! Before we get carried away, let's get back to the treaty. At the time, Spain chose to retain Minorca, Majorca and Ibiza and ceded away Gibraltar. That was a smart move! Last year, over three million Brits flew there and spent wads of money. You're winning, Spain! It's time to back off. Just ask Argentina what will happen if you try to do anything militarily to a British colony!

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