I surrender. I admit it. I have been won over by the strength of Spain’s argument that Gibraltar should be swiftly handed over back to the Spanish.
Thanks to an unrelenting two-pronged attack by the Spanish Government and its faithful partner-in-rhetoric, the Spanish media, I have come to accept the devastating logic that it makes no sense for the ‘llanitos’ to remain British for a minute longer.
Let’s look at the facts. Better still, let’s look at all the benefits the ‘llanitos’ will enjoy once they officially become Spanish.
No longer under the auspices and protection of ‘Her Majesty’s Government’ (an utterly pompous term, by the way, and a post-colonial tag the ‘llanitos’ will no longer have to drag around, noose-like), Gibraltarians will be invited back into the Andalucían fold. Oh joy.
Before I start, I want to be perfectly clear about one thing. It is totally unfair to point out that they’ll become part of a region which suffers 36 per cent unemployment, as some cynical observers have dared suggest. I know for a fact that some Andaluz provinces have as little as 26 per cent unemployment.
As the Spanish Government and an army of (Spanish) economists are keen to remind us, Gibraltar has become a tax haven for suspect off-shore companies. Why, there are more firms operating from the Rock than there are residents (more than 30,000, I hear). That’s being greedy.
Granted, talk of tax-dodging from a country known for being knee-deep in corruption (some 2,000 cases at the last count) is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. But to be fair, tax havens like Gibraltar have had it good for far too long.
Having a moderately successful business sector is one thing, but having firms sprouting up like wild mushrooms for doing virtually nothing in such an economically-depressed area is simply rubbing salt into the wounds.
One month sifting through bundles of paperwork and Gibraltarians will rush en masse to close down all those rogue businesses faster than you can say ‘mañana, por favor’. They will soon tire of triplicate DNI copies; parents’ birth certificates; and waiting in queues for hours only to be told that it was not form CRX-PPLBS5 they were required to produce but form CRX-PPLBS5-b.
It also means that Gibraltarians will be weaned off the sinister habit of opening a business every five minutes as Spain is officially one of the worst countries in the world for start ups, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
It is only then that Gibraltarians will be able to exploit the full tourist potential of their tiny isthmus. One idea could be to turn the Rock into a unique and challenging golf course. I can’t think of a better way of improving your golf than by playing atop a precipice. Imagine the fun trying to retrieve lost balls.
Those gaudy, fake Victorian homes built along the east side of the Rock will also have to go; they take up too much space and are painful reminders of an oppressive colonial past. Once demolished they could give way to the splendour of 21st century architecture, Spanish-style, which would see Gibraltar vie for the coveted title of ‘The Mediterranean New York’. Gibraltarians will then be able to emulate the tourism model so keenly adopted by Spanish coastal resorts, such as Marbella and Benidorm, where a 200-metre high, 47-storey colossus, jutting skywards like a double-headed phallus, is currently being built.
Anyone mention coastal law? No problem. All you have to do is grease your newly-elected mayor who will gladly and speedily approve all the building permits. Once that’s done – probably with the regional government’s tacit support – it’ll take the Junta and the Government years to untangle the legal mess, with the former crying ‘not me!’ all along the way. By then, who knows? And more importantly, who cares? That’s the great thing about having a host of public administrations fighting each other: no-one knows what the hell is going on.
Regarding law and order. That’s easy. The police in Gibraltar are so poor they can’t even afford to be armed. Once it becomes Spanish, Gibraltarians will be able to boast they have not one but three separate forces of law and order – the National Police, the Guardia Civil and the local police, all of whom are armed to the teeth.
That’s Gib’s population won over. But what can the UK government do to renege on its commitment to this vile spot? It’s no secret that the British would rather be shot of this rocky outcrop. The UK, after all, considers trade with a major European partner to be far more important than appeasing an irritating bunch of off-shore misfits. For decades they’ve been dropping subtle hints, such as closing down the naval dock yard, but those thick-skinned Gibraltarians refuse to get the message.
In my modest estimation, Britain has been going about it the wrong way. Positive reinforcement is all well and good when you want to fluff up your mistress’ ego, but it’ll get you nowhere if you want to end the relationship.
The UK Government should take a leaf from their Spanish counterparts, who have a track record of alienating and eliciting hatred from those who no longer wish to remain Spanish – just ask the Catalans and the Basques.
It’s all about negative reinforcement. As we have seen, ‘Gibbos’ (see, I’m learning too) have traditionally been described by the Spanish either as tobacco smugglers or tax dodgers. Recently, the epithets of ‘environmental terrorists’ and ‘land grabbers’ have been added to the nefarious list.
The best way to end a troubled romance is to show open contempt. After all, emotional hatred born of a previously intimate relationship easily outmatches the staged displeasure of a diplomatic spat between countries.
The British government should start sending clear sod-off vibes, such as: ‘I’ve gone off you, you’re no longer my type’…‘you have a criminal record’…‘you’re not really British; you’re a sad remnant of a colonial past’. That sort of thing.
Given time, llanitos will surely reject their Britishness and rush back into the arms of the awaiting Spaniards, whose insults will no longer seem hurtful. Then, Gibraltar will become just another Spanish town, with its own disused airport, humongous unemployment and so on.
There is only one fly in the ointment. The Macaque apes. Hard as I’ve tried to convince them to wrap themselves in a Spanish flag they remain firmly against the idea. One even tried to bite me. Pesky Gibraltarians.
Richard Torné (A shorter version of this piece appears in the Costa del Sol News and the Costa Almería News)