A People Betrayed

1000

The main tourist square of Gibraltar

Gibraltar, British territory since 1713, doesn’t count itself a ‘corner of a foreign field forever England’. The people are of one mind, furious, incensed, enraged.

They detest the British government for dumping Europe and closing down on its borders. 97.5% voted to stay in cooperation with Europe. They feel betrayed.

The day after ‘Brexit’ it felt as if “A close relative you loved had died.” (They should have been in Scotland on September 19, 2014.)

Preface

Were David Cameron to visit the Rock today he’d probably get lynched. That’s how angry they are. It was quite humbling to listen to the expressions of anger.

The population, whether born there, or chose to live there, see themselves as Gibraltarians, a nation, albeit a small one, now vulnerable to economic stagnation, Spanish blockade, (again), and English xenophobia.

A British protectorate, the naval base much diminished since its early days. Gibraltar relies heavily on tourism, especially tourists off the cruise liners that drop by every day.

There is no VAT, making the price of material goods attractive, there’s a welfare system of sorts, and free higher education. Most properties are rented. The population stays around the 30,000 mark, a proportion Spanish, some Indians and Pakistanis, immigrants from South Africa, and a small orthodox Jewish community. Its flourishing economy, built around financial services, e-commerce and online gaming, is based on the single market and free movement. Every day, nearly half its entire workforce – up to 12,000 Spanish and other EU nationals – commute across the border.

Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo and Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, met to discuss a joint way forward to combat English xenophobia and anti-democratic  imposition, both determined to find some way of staying in the EU.

My week in Gibraltar was at the invitation of their annual Literary Festival – my presence sponsored by the Alwani Foundation, an irony not lost on me. It was filled by expressions of their fury and their anxiety, much of it repetition, fired at anybody who would listen.

Readers will spot how comments echo those of people in Scotland. Everybody I talked to was friendly and good natured, a surprise considering the situation people are faced with. They know the worst has yet to come. In no special order, here is a small example:

The Shop Keeper 1

“It was a shock. I opened my glass blowing shop twenty-one years ago with EU funds. It’s a healthy business now, thanks to the EU, but now what? The biggest issue we’re facing is a free-flowing border, for people visiting Gibraltar and for the goods that we import. The raw material that we buy is exclusively bought from the European Union. It has to travel through the European Union to get to us. But if it faces a difficult Spanish border then we have a problem. In the same way it affects us being able to export our goods to the world. So the uncertainty covers every possible aspect of the business.”

The Shop Keeper 2

“It was a purely racists decision by ignorant English. I am very angry. They were fed a load of lies, rubbish by dishonest politicians, and because they dislike foreigners they believed it. They swallowed the lot. They believe stemming immigration will deliver a Utopian England they read about in Agatha Christie novels, that kind doesn’t exist, never existed. They think they don’t need to lift a finger to do anything else to make their life better.”

The Secondary Teacher

“Many years ago we were flagging waving British sycophants. Whatever happened in the British Empire was our history. Then in the early eighties there was a sea change in our education system. We decided to teach our children all about the history of Gibraltar. We told our children if they wanted to live in Gibraltar, to make it their permanent home, we had to be Gibraltarians, not pseudo-Brits. It took ten years, a generation, but it worked. We are a more cohesive, better society. We know our identity. The British prime minister keeps talking about the United Kingdom having made its decision. It didn’t. By a slim majority racist middle-England made a decision. Scotland, Northern Ireland, London, and Gibraltar made a different decision, and Gibraltar is not the United Kingdom.”

The Secondary Teacher’s Wife

And by the way, we really admire Nicola Sturgeon for her stance, straight-forward, uncomplicated, honest. We like her. She’s welcome here.”

The Financier

“Our financial business model  is built on passporting – being able to sell, say, a UK carpet manufacturer’s bonds into every country across the EEA. Brexit will force the Gibraltar Stock Exchange to reconfigure, possibly by opening a subsidiary in another EU state. If you’re a German corporate wanting to market to the UK, you’ll have to either seek approval from the FCA in London – or come to us. As a jurisdiction, Gibraltar is likely to be faster, more user-friendly and more competitive on price. We sit down the corridor from the regulator. Issues can be resolved fast. Gibraltar is almost a model of what the EU set out to achieve: cross-border cooperation, jobs for EU citizens, economic growth, full compliance; surely the EU won’t want that to end, Gibraltar to be punished? ”

The Police Officer

“Very worrying, sir. When you show loyalty all these years it’s crushing to discover loyalty is all one way. But we shall have to see what happens. That’s all I can say.”

The Pensioner

“First thing I said when I heard it was Oh merde! It’s seriously stupid, regressive, anti-humane, anti-democratic, and self-defeating. But most of all it leaves Gibraltar in a precarious position. What kind of people are they who cut themselves off from the rest of the world, and then have the temerity to say foreigners can join them on their terms? It’s detestable, racist bigotry. But we don’t consider ourselves British anymore, and I am pleased we have our own identity. Who’d want to be associated with dumb English now?”

The Senior Politician

“I think a hard Brexit would be very, very challenging to the economic model that has been the source of our prosperity for 30 years. That will not be easy, and may even entail trying to negotiate a separate relationship with the EU. Our reality is different: we are part of the physical continent of Europe. So yes, we’ll be looking for a relationship with the EU that may differ from the UK’s, perhaps an associate-style status. There are models: Andorra, Greenland, Liechtenstein. As part of the UK’s exit, we’d like an agreement to continue to give us single market access, and freedom of movement. What the UK calls uncontrolled immigration, Gibraltar calls the essential flow of workers. So what we are working on now is how we can ensure our job market stays as open as it is now, for people who have the right, as EU nationals, to work in Gibraltar.”

The Waiter

“I’m a Gibraltarian. I was born here. My whole life has been spent here. Family, my grandkids. What have we to look forward to now? Soon as Brexit was announced the Spanish government moved in stating we will have to share sovereignty with Spain if we are to survive as we are now. We have never trusted Franco’s Spain. Never. Too many fascists still in power; pretending to be compassionate conservatives. Maybe we should share sovereignty with Scotland. It seems to have the right attitude.”

The Coach Driver

“No disrespect to you Scots, in fact we admire your attitude, but it had to be the stupidest decision made by the stupidest people on the planet. I mean, nothing will change. They think stopping migrant workers will alter their lives for the better. But immigration won’t halt. It might reduce in number a few years until politicians realise they’re blocking talent as well as refugees, but it will always stay the same; some Brits will leave; some immigrants arrive. The thick politicians pretended it was to rid English democracy of EU interference, that was just the cover excuse. Why did they have a referendum and stir up all that hatred? The English hate being  told what’s better by foreigners. Stupid. The lot of them. Racists. Blind mice following a bigot off a cliff.”

Epilogue

British nationalists warn Scotland that Spain will have none of its independence regained ideals. Spain’s Mariano Rahoy, leader of the Orwellian named ‘People’s Party’, is juggling with a minority government and facing a series of high profile scandals, one former colleague jailed for four and a half years. He has said he will respect Scotland’s choice as it conforms to international law.

Spain’s foreign minister, José García-Margallo, who earlier this month threatened to “plant his flag” on the enclave, has repeatedly said Gibraltar’s only post-Brexit access to the single market will come through shared sovereignty. Prime minister Rajoy told Theresa May that once the UK abandons free movement and the single market, Gibraltar will have to do so too – unless it agrees to joint rule. “Over our dead bodies” answered Gibraltarians as one.”

The American tourist

Finally, an American couple visiting a day from “Mah-Laga”, (Malaga) were amazed that “the Brits can dump on one of their own territories and not give a damn.”

That remark pretty well sums up the universal disgust I met.

PLEASE NOTE: Readers comments must have their real name on their IP address, (house rules!) but in particular, anybody writing from Gibraltar must show a Gibraltar address. A bald “I live in Gibraltar – we’re all Brits” doesn’t carry veracity on a website, certainly not an individual claiming to speak for all Gibraltarians.

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43 Responses to A People Betrayed

  1. diabloandco says:

    Thanks for that Grouse – I enjoyed it tremendously and feel that the Gibraltarians have similar feelings to Scots but they have a bigger problem.

    • hettyforindy says:

      Yes great article. I guess you mean by bigger problem, Spain.

      However, in fact Scotland’s bigger problem is similar, it’s called the UK, england. We will be shackled by them, continue to be used and abused for the foreseeable future, if we don’t get out before the two years of brexit negotiations are done, if it takes that long of course.

      Each day that goes by, it becomes more clear just how disastrous englands brexit is for Scotland and the other remain voters in devolved admins. London will survive, and they can always jump ship if needed, money is moveable. Jobs, skills, post study visas, industry, the environment, freedom of speech, human rights, workers rights, disability rights, basic needs being met, all will go, if they haven’t already. Very worrying times ahead unless we escape via independence.

      • Labenal says:

        More and more do Mark Renton’s words become apposite.
        “Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can’t even find a decent culture to be colonized BY. We’re ruled by effete assholes. It’s a SHITE state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and ALL the fresh air in the world won’t make any fucking difference.”

        I imagine many Gibraltarians would share the sentiment!

  2. mogabee says:

    No wonder the Gibraltarians voice isn’t being heard in our “balanced” MSM! I could feel the anger flaring off the page…

    • Grouse Beater says:

      Seen only one general article about Gibraltar – and the place is avoided by May and her consorts. In fact, if I was English and my cruise ship about to dock in Gibraltar for the day … I’d stay on board.

  3. mikewr says:

    A good read. Thanks.

  4. Macart says:

    A keeper Grouse and have to say the reactions don’t come as much of a surprise. We’ve walked a mile in those particular shoes and still have the blisters to show for it.

    Now for Hammond’s ‘fiscal reset’ followed by the ending of the SNPs nationwide survey and its results. November should prove to be an interesting month.

  5. Rhona Frisby says:

    That’s a great read.
    I have been looking forward to your essay on Gibraltar as I have a holiday home in southern Spain. Most of the Spanish here in my village are as dumbfounded by the referendum result as we are. It will be a great loss to me to have my European citizenship removed.

    • Grouse Beater says:

      Almost bought a place in Andalucía but had a feeling things were about to go awry. (Chose instead to build my own house on outskirts of Embra.)

  6. RENEE DUNN says:

    UK STRONGER TOGETHER…EU STRONGER OUT.
    You are really pained. The fact that you gained being in the EU has badly affected your vocabulary. Strong words said in anger does your cause no good. YOU NEED TO LIVE IN SCOTLAND TO FEEL THE NEGLECT. NICOLAE SHOULD HANG HER HEAD IN SHAME AS SHE TURNS HER BACK ON THE REAL NEED OF HER OWN CONSTITUENTS RATHER THAN TRYING TO REKINDLE HER INDY PASSION..MOST SCOTS DON’T WANT.,She is damaging us with her desire to fulfill her own ambitions…Gib is beyond my ken and I trust you will continue to have the freedom to be heard…kind regards

    • Grouse Beater says:

      The sooner purblind fools acknowledge that Scotland and England are two nations labouring under a grossly undemocratic, repressive, outdated Treaty, the sooner people like you will stop whinging about progressive change for the better, and start working for it.

      And in case you have missed the obvious, the ‘neglect’ of which you mention issues from over 300 years of Westminster rule and diktat. In modern times the SNP’s administration is but a single leaf on a tree.

      • hettyforindy says:

        Well said G.Beater, looks like some folks have a very skewed view of N. Sturgeon.

        Hmm, wonder where that comes from, wouldn’t be the BBC or daily rags by any chance!

        They forget that the unionists ran the show, and still do from WM, for 300+ yrs. It will take a few more years to put right the terrible wrongs perpetrated against Scotland’s people, land and economy, and potential prosperity. SNP are doing an amazing job, against huge odds, quite frankly.

    • J Rattray says:

      You will have had your grouse then . Scotland will get free from the anti democratic union called the UK . Nicola has proven to be a great leader respected by most Scots that is why the brainwashed yooonies hate her.

      • Grouse Beater says:

        Unionists keep telling us to stop looking back at the past, as they do their best to return England to the 1970s.

    • Rab Kay says:

      Hey Renee, your doctorate in stupid is hinging oot yer pooch ya blether.

  7. sean says:

    You are in serious error and the way you have replied to those who don’t share your view demonstrates a great immaturity. I have lived and worked in Gibraltar for longer than you have been alive and despite your comments you have no idea of the complexity of Gibraltar its history or its unique position in the world.

    • Grouse Beater says:

      It is no surprise to see the blind ignorant dive in claiming superior knowledge, as soon as they see truth laid bare, truth they dislike.

      It is monumentally absurd to say, against 98% of the population voting to stay in Europe you somehow know better than them all. I have published your arrogance so that readers can judge it for what it is.

  8. Papko says:

    In 1984 I hitchhiked from London to Malaga (took me about 3 weeks, stopped off in Madrid a week though).

    After a few months enjoying the Costa del Sol, I headed for Gibraltar, at that time, there was no direct land route, and I paid a ticket on a private yacht, (about £20 If I remember) there was quite a trade at the time in Brits living on the Costa, having to go and get their passport stamped every 3 months, and a trip to Gib was handier than a trip to Gatwick.

    I arrived in Gib in July 1984, and soon found work for a local construction company, there were many British construction companies in Gib, as there was so much work with the MOD and DSA (Lilley, Millers and Mackleys were all Scottish based companies who had outposts in Gib at one time).

    At that time Gib was dominated by the Naval Dockyard, which was about half a mile long with 3 massive dry docks and vast halls full of lathes and cranes. I remember working there being 18 and running through the place on an errand, never really appreciating that this Naval Dockyard, with its vast size, 1000 or so workers and whole town of 30k as you say, all there to fit Royal Naval vessels in that part of the Med, and Britain had about a dozen of these naval yards scattered all over the world, a small portion of Britain’s defence budget at the time.

    It was all coming to an end the Dockyard was soon to be fitted for commercial use, a private company was to do the work on ships and Gibrepair, as they were called, would have to tender for work in the open market.

    The border with Spain opened in 1985, at the ceremony I remember Gibraltararians shouting “Gibraltar British forever”, as not many of them were not keen on the Spanish, indeed they feared going over to Spain as they said that cars with Gib number plates were a target for criminals.

    At that time Gib had survived without any contact with Spain, massive desalination plant had been built as Spain would not export water, nor workers. So for years the British had relied on Moroccan labour, they all lived in a dormitory called Casemates, about 500 Moroccan men, spent their lives working for months then going back to see their families for a few weeks, at times of Muslim festival.
    Every building firm was full of Morrocans, and I got on with them the best, during my 3 years in Gib.

    I am sure there was a referendum on whether they wanted to share sovereignty with Spain, in 2002 (also 1967), and 99% of the voters said NO. (They have history with overwhelming majorities.)

    So that is certainly a very severe swing in the other direction now, likewise the “British”, they were more British than the British when I was there, though they must have felt let down when the Royal Navy withdrew, in reality its hard to base foreign policy on keeping dockyards open that you don’t use any more.

    It has always rankled with Spain these last 300 years, as you can appreciate the Rock is a natural fortress that dominates the plains , and controls the entrance to the Med. As to what will happen now I curiously await.

  9. Neil A says:

    Not sure my experience tallied with the secondary teacher’s comment: I happened to be in Gibraltar on their Gibraltar day and some kind of Jubilee event for the Queen. The place was a sea of Union flags and there was a billboard of the Queen that could have been seen from outer space.

    Whether my experience is reflective of the place or not, it certainly highlights how any kind of national bond as Brits can wear pretty thin when you suddenly find you have very different interests from, say, those in Blighty. I felt a similar experience after years of living away from Scotland: I became quite patriotic; then I returned and found, particularly in Sep 14, that 55% of people in my country were pretty foreign to me.

    • Grouse Beater says:

      When I arrived in Gibraltar I expected to see and hear what I remember from my first visit when I was 19 years of age, Brits more British than the English. But as you can read, they have become Gibraltarians.

  10. Maxwell says:

    If the Gibraltarians want to stay in Europe all they have to do is vote to join Spain.
    If they want to stay in Britain they can.

    • Grouse Beater says:

      By ‘Britain’ you mean the UK. The UK is long past its sell-by date.

    • It’s pretty clear from the article they *don’t* want to join Spain. But they very much, by a near unanimous vote, do want to stay in the EU. The reason the UK is in such trouble at the moment is England’s inability to square such circles, or even respect people’s needs and wishes. Just telling people, “You have these 2 terrible choices, like it or lump it” isn’t governance and it’s not treating people with any respect. It was the same with devo-max, and just being told “If you don’t like the status quo vote for independence, but we won’t let you use *our* currency and we’ll make life hell for you.”

      That’s the kind attitude that will ultimately see England out the EU on its own. And that isn’t something anyone would wish on their reasonable, decent English friends and family.

      • Grouse Beater says:

        I agree. But it’s long past ‘decent’ English families to stand up and be counted. It is their country they need to take back. It’s their government and its democracy.

      • I’d forgotten about that. Thanks for reminding me about the English threats to those wanting Scotland to be released from bondage. Rather telling that those same people who promised dire consequences and punishment for the Scots are now insisting that the EU has no cause to treat England (I make the distinction) harshly or impose the rules that they were once signed up to.

        I think that must count as one of the most blatant examples of hypocrisy it is possible to imagine.

  11. Kevin Griffiths says:

    Nothing to do with the British government……..all they did was offer the British population their say…..and the British population spoke and chose to leave the EU.
    I also voted to leave the EU.
    Gibraltar and don’t want to be ruled/ influenced by Spain……
    I don’t want Britain ruled/ influenced by the EU.
    ENOUGH SAID.

    • Grouse Beater says:

      Where did you get the idea that democracy is when a government ‘offers’ or ‘gives’ the electorate a say? The process is the other way around. It belongs to the electorate by right.

      And the slogan you repeat about not wanting to be governed by the EU is hogwash. What you mean is, there were some laws Westminster didn’t like but lost the vote, such as the laws on human rights.

      Your final two words ‘enough said’ neatly mirrors the authoritarian tyranny that we are expected to accept … until the day arrives when it affects you personally. Only then will you scream foul.

  12. Apologies for the late arrival. Excellent post.

    One thing needing further analysis is the impact the EU exit will have on Gibraltar’s i-gaming sector, which accounts for circa 30-35% of their economy.

    Having lived on the Costa for a couple of years, I’m aware that around 3000 folk depend on the online gambling companies operating from Gibraltar, mostly drawn from the English speaking expat community. These companies also employ folk from many other countries where they operate online, needing native speakers to service gambling accounts, queries etcetera. Whatever the moral probity of the industry, they remain a vital part of the economy, in an area where work of any sort is scarce. The repercussions of the companies leaving will impact far beyond La Línea.

    Most of the companies are of UK origin and are in Gibraltar for tax reasons, access to EU regulations and market and of course access to English speaking staff. They are now likely to move their operations to another small Independent country that remains part of the EU, Malta.

    In short Gibraltar, despite its loyalty to the UK state and crown have been shafted. Tax shelters and smuggling tobacco appears to be all they have left…

  13. Grouse Beater says:

    Good analysis of the situation. You can see why Gibraltarians are really worried, their lives and livelihoods tossed in the air to land who knows where.

  14. Dointhebiz 1 says:

    The ‘Coach driver’ for me, has it spot on.

    He – along with my Scandinavian friends – couldn’t believe that Scots would have fallen for nonsense and scarey stories coming from our MSM. In fact, they laughed about it, and said ‘As IF anyone would be daft enough to believe that?’… Needless to say, they were as gobsmacked as BoJo was when he won.

  15. Grouse Beater says:

    Coach driver was one of five who chauffeured us to venues – at high speed in narrow roads not hitting a thing! – and each had a similar argument to put to me … and at great length. The one published is greatly shortened.

  16. Papko says:

    Its a very interesting essay GB , and close to my heart.
    Your selection of comments from various residents is very vivid, and remind of all the natural raconteurs in GIb.
    As far as I recall , most residnets are multi-lingual , speaking English , Spanish and their own Patois “Gibraltarian”, through which I learnt the little Spanish I did, I found it much easier to talk to the Moroccans in Spanish,( since we worked together all day it was only natural).
    There was one British Army battalion permanently stationed in GIB , and they “ruled the roost”, till the Spring exercises and the Fleet came in.
    It was strictly controlled with Military Police evrywhere as groups of a thousand sailors at a time went on the beer. the Main street was a sea of drunken bodies and a river of spew, as for a few days 10000 sailors, enjoyed R&R, the pubs were packed , and all the local women safely locked up. (by there husbands and fathers) .
    So they saw the worst of British behavior certainly,but the pubs all benefited (I am sure there were 100 pubs in Gib when I was there , that’s a lot for town of 30k) .

    So what is the actual direction the people are taking ? is constitutional reform pending ? do they wish to share sovereignty with Spain, or go it alone ?, I would be keen to hear what they say.

    I left Gib in 1988 for the last time , and you have made me nostalgic to visit it again .

    PS what about a review of Anthropoid ? my sources say its well worth a watch.

    • Grouse Beater says:

      Obviously they want to remain as part of the European community, but fear they are about to be the pawn in a fix by May for a soft Brexit. That fear is justified. I’ll keep watch.

      Got ‘Anthropoid’ in my sights; next movie review is ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

  17. Trish says:

    Glbralter has always had a corner for us. My hubby was stationed there for 2 yrs and believe me, I will change living in Britain with any Gibraltarian who would swop, as we live in angels xxxx

  18. It is true that Cameron’s decision to hold a Referendum was a big mistake. But the Regerendum was held for the whole of the U.K. To which Gibraltar belongs.

    We are still strongly attached to the U.K. And we need to go where UK goes. UK will succeed and so will Gib.

    We its people are still loyal to our Queen and the Union Jack and are British Citizens as such we need to be given Representation in WESTMINSTER with an MP representing the Rock, we need to be another Devolved Region of the U.K to survive the Spanish threats. After Brexit the Rock will be Prosperous and British, and its residents British Gibraltarians. Guaranteed there needs to be many adjustments in the short term, so what? British for ever!

    Joe L Caruana MBE (Former Goverment Minister) who survived General Franco’s siege of sixteen years. Proud to remain British!

    • Grouse Beater says:

      Thank you, Joe, for your contribution.

      Some unpalatable facts:

      Only 32% of the UK voted to turn their backs on our European friends.
      Brexit was lost by a small margin in Middle-England, driven by racism.
      Scotland has an agreement that included EU membership, so that is now junked.
      Brexit will screw the Northern Ireland peace agreement based on EU membership.
      Your wish to remain British doesn’t seem to be shared by Gibraltarians these days.
      and…
      Sad to say, I think you’ll find dear old Blighty isn’t the place you remember from your youth.

      • Brian says:

        You are wrong my friend. As much as us Gibraltarians wish for the UK to remain in EU, very few will give up our British sovereignty or citizenship over it. I know, I live here.

    • Grouse Beater says:

      In answer to Brian

      Your comment got through because you’ve attached a name to it, but there is so much wrong with it you make yourself an easy target.

      Patronising bonhomie of ‘my friend’ aside,
      1. You do not speak for all Gibraltarians.
      2. Not one of those quoted spoke for anybody but themselves.
      3. None made mention of being British; comments talk of betrayal.
      4. Your remarks are delusional. ‘Brits’ – English don’t give a damn about Gibraltar. Politicians avoid mention of it. Newspapers are silent.
      5. You say you live there. I’ve no proof. I know those interviewed do for I met every one.
      6. The UK is splitting asunder, ‘British‘ has no real meaning.
      7. Gibraltar has been cast adrift. Better man an oar now and steer a course than running around shouting ‘I’m British!’ implying you can’t drown.

      PS: I corrected your typos.

  19. znepj says:

    If I were Gibraltarian, I’d be starting a “Let’s join Spain” movement about now.

  20. Ken Munn says:

    “Yes,” says Spain, “We’ll keep your pensioners if you give us Gibraltar,”

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