There is a rock at the southern tip of Spain called Gibraltar which is a holdover from the British colonial era, and contrary to UK public opinion it served no useful military purpose during World War II. But it’s an interesting promontory for tourists to explore and its history goes all the way back to the ancient Phoenicians who discovered the place.
To UK civilians, ‘the Rock’ represents an important piece of British history that played a vital role in British history (it didn’t) and no matter the cost, it must be preserved and defended. At the very least the thinking goes, it must remain a visa-free travel zone for UK tourists who need to get away from Britain’s winter weather — so on that basis alone; Call up the Royal Navy, call up the Marines, call up the Army, for we must preserve our winter getaway destination! The very antithesis of the word ‘strategic’.
Why Pay to Defend an Indefensible Rock?
Yes, that’s true. Even the mighty U.S. military couldn’t defend Gibraltar from a determined attack. It’s too small to defend and any resupply attempts could easily be thwarted by enemies with far less technological prowess than the U.S. enjoys.
Erwin Rommel, one of the most brilliant (and vastly underrated) military officers in history famously said; “Don’t fight a battle if you gain nothing by winning,” and Britons must be reminded of this here for it shows the astonishing difference between the military mindset and the civilian mindset.
Regardless of the fascinating story behind Gibraltar, it serves no strategic purpose for the United Kingdom (it never did) and a political fight over it may poison the waters for obtaining a reasonable Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union.
No British military officer would ever pretend that the Rock is a strategic site, either in WWI, WWII, or now. It’s insignificant from a military point of view. However, many civilians seem to think Gibraltar is of the utmost military significance and must be ‘defended’ at any cost. Facepalm!
Some UK civilians and British politicians think Gibraltar is an important part of British military history, yet the experts on this (including historians and senior military commanders) strongly disagree. And UK politicians using a false military narrative to preserve their favoured tourist spot is naive and dangerous. Unless you’re wilfully blind on the matter, you can see where this is heading.
I wouldn’t waste one single life defending Gibraltar, as a soldier’s life is of far more value to the UK and to his or her family than a rock in the Mediterranean. Let’s save our powder for the battles that actually matter, shall we?
Now, would someone please inform Theresa May that World War II is over and that Gibraltar isn’t part of Britain’s great and glorious military history. It’s a historical footnote, nothing more.
Gibraltar is a drain on the UK budget
More money is spent by the UK government maintaining Gibraltar annually than the UK receives (from all sources) in the territory.
That money could be better spent in the NHS, on so-called tiny homes for the homeless, on better teaching aids to make our kids smarter, on small town and city beautification projects (such projects create many jobs for comparatively small amounts of money) or other worthwhile projects. The billions directed to the UK military to support Gibraltar could be better spent to defend Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
If any Gibraltans don’t want to become Spanish citizens after Brexit they are welcome to sell their homes in Gibraltar and up-stakes to Britain, Northern Ireland or any of the British territories in the Caribbean, for example. I’m sure EU citizens would be happy to purchase those homes at a premium, so there won’t be any financial losses to Gibraltans.
Gibraltar is a Crown Colony: A Holdover from the British Empire
Although Gibraltar is administered by the UK government in cooperation with the Gibraltar administration (presently and ably led by Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo) it remains owned by the British Crown in a heritage that goes back centuries.
Only the Monarch of Great Britain can sell, grant, or decide to keep that British territory. The UK government administers Gibraltar but isn’t the owner of it.
Both British and continental European politicians are entitled to their personal opinions on the matter. But in the end, it’s not their matter, but a matter between the Monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Monarch of Spain.
Therefore, the future of Gibraltar is to be decided by the British Crown and the Spanish Crown only (see the Treaties of Utrecht) for those are the only principals in this matter, and none other.
Written by John Brian Shannon