Over the past day or so, we’ve seen a ridiculous controversy over the status of Gibraltar emerge. This territory, attached to Spain, but owned by Great Britain for 300 years or so, has made it into the news for the first time in a while. It’s a silly story, but it stems from much more serious developments. On Wednesday of last week, the Brexit process finally got underway. The Gibraltar issue, and the deranged comments of former Conservative leader Michael Howard, aren’t all that serious. But there’s nothing funny about the story.
It’s only the first of many Brexit related crises to come. As this Brexit process unfolds over the next two years there are going to be a lot of angry people. The British government has made promises to its people that will not be honored. The unraveling of the EU system across Great Britain will have tremendous effects, and may even result in the unraveling of the EU itself. Petty arguments over things like Gibraltar may seem ridiculous today, but they may not a few years from now. As the over-arching systems dissolve in acrimony, these idiot nationalist issues will come to the fore once again. The Gibraltar story isn’t funny because it’s a sign of things to come. Check out today’s video to learn more.
This video marks one of those “satisfying but not satisfying” moments. It’s quite unpleasant to be proven right so quickly. For over a year now I’ve been warning that the disintegration of the EU would lead to a resurgence of nationalist issues between European states. I’m a bit shocked to see one come up so early, and so far West. I’ve also predicted that this disintegration will lead to broader violence a decade or so down the line. I hope I’m wrong about that. Check out my Brexit play-list to learn more.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hello all. Have you heard the news about Gibraltar. Isn’t it hilarious?
No. No it is not. Last June, the British people voted to leave the European Union. This is known as Brexit. In the months since then, people have been asking: “Where is the Brexit Crisis? I thought this was supposed to be a disaster”
Over the past ten months, nothing too serious has happened. The reason nothing has happened, is because Brexit hadn’t happened yet. Well on Wednesday, March 29th, the Brexit process officially started. Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, sent a letter to the EU, and on Friday the EU issued its first, preliminary framework for the Brexit negotiations. And this triggered the first of what will be many Brexit related crises.
In the paperwork, the EU mentioned Gibraltar, a chunk of land at the entrance to the Mediterranean that has a weird status. It is directly to the South of Spain, but the British have owned this chunk of land for over 300 years. It’s tremendously strategic and it’s been sort of a low level bone of contention between Britain and Spain for… well… almost three centuries.
The status of this chunk of land is extremely unlikely to change, but the fact that the EU threw that in there is an indication of just how bruising these negotiations are going to be for Great Britain.
On Sunday, Michael Howard, a pretty undistinguished former leader of the UK’s Conservative Party decided to weigh in on this conversation, and he started a bit of a firestorm.
35 years ago this week, Andrew, another woman Prime Minister, sent a task force halfway across the world to protect another small group of British people, against another Spanish speaking country. And I’m absolutely clear that our current woman Prime Minister will show the same resolve in relation to Gibraltar as her predecessor did.
This statement is ridiculous and inflammatory, and it’s also worth remembering that it comes from somebody who has essentially no power. But it shows that even in Great Britain, supposedly one of the most modern and forward thinking of European countries, crazy nationalist ideas still exist.
On Monday, we more or less got the official response of Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, to this statement. She essentially laughed it off.
Now, Michael Howard is ridiculous, and the idea of a war between Great Britain and Spain at this point is deeply, deeply silly. But I don’t think this is funny.
The Brexit process is going to last two years. And Gibraltar is tremendously unlikely to be a serious factor in those negotiations. But, the British Empire has other legacies that will be tremendously important. The question of Northern Ireland in particular is likely to be very complex and quite possibly even dangerous. Scotland is likely to make another attempt at independence.
With the beginning of these Brexit negotiations we are now finally getting the Brexit crises that we were promised. This one, in particular, is not very serious. But we’re going to get more serious issues.
If, as I think is likely, Brexit ends up leading to the exit of other European countries, then we’re going to get serious, serious problems. Britain has dumb nationalists like Michael Howard. But in other countries like Hungary and Poland, the dumb nationalists are in power.
The question of Gibraltar is one that we’re conditioned to not take seriously. In the world of the European Union, where European countries are working together, and unifying economically and resolving political issues in very established frameworks, the question of Gibraltar simply isn’t an issue.
The world of the EU may be ending. And these petty nationalist issues, that we’re conditioned to look at as silly 19th century relics… Aren’t relics anymore. There’s a serious chance that issues like Gibraltar may be more and more of what we hear coming out of Europe.
So no, I don’t think the Gibraltar issue is funny. It’s an indication of things to come, and those things are frankly, quite frightening.
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