The rock of ages past

How lazy, snobbish and wrong it is to mock Gibraltar for the lager and fish and chips clichés. Yes, you can get lager and fish and chips there; nothing wrong with  that. The pint of lager I had in a pub in Gibraltar Main Street was excellent. And the funny thing is that, unlike consciously ‘British’ pubs in Rome or New York, there was no ersatz feel to it. It was exactly like a pub in Britain, down to the two middle-aged office workers in shirtsleeves, exchanging dull office chat, breaking off occasionally for low-level, awkward flirting with the barmaid, who was in her twenties. That’s what’s so gripping about

On balance, I’d vote for a rate rise and a stronger pound

Since Article 50 was triggered last week, City traders have been avidly watching the fluctuations of the pound. Analysts at Barclays, Nomura and Citigroup think sterling is undervalued against the euro and the dollar, and due for a rebound, having dived in the market tizzy that followed last June’s referendum and kept its head down through the phoney war of the past nine months. As ambiguity over Brexit terms begins to recede, says the City, it’s time for the pound to perk up. Well, maybe — as I’m often moved to observe in relation to bald economic statements. Let’s take a closer look. The sudden fall last summer boosted UK

Barometer | 6 April 2017

Nice littler earners Cressida Dick, the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, will take a voluntary pay cut from £270,000 to £230,000 compared with her predecessor. Some others voluntarily taking less: — Richard Pennycook, CEO of the Co-op Group, last year took a cut in his base salary from £1.25 million to £750,000. His incentive plan also became less generous. — Keith Skeoch, CEO of Standard Life, last year took a cut in his bonus, which will now pay a maximum 400 per cent of his £700,000 base pay instead of 500 per cent. — In 2015, the board of Credit Suisse took a 25 per cent cut after America

How to solve the Gibraltar problem – in the style of Donald Trump

Two of the top tips in Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal, of which I wrote last week even though he allegedly didn’t write it himself, are ‘Think Big’ and ‘Maximise the Options’, also expressed as ‘I keep a lot of balls in the air’. How should Theresa May apply that advice in response to Spain’s opportunistic bid to raise the issue of sovereignty over Gibraltar as a potential Brexit hurdle? She could, of course, offer a repeat of the 2002 referendum in which Gibraltarians voted 99 per cent ‘No’ when asked whether Britain and Spain should share the Rock’s sovereignty. But the ‘balls in the air’ gambit I

Can Anglo-Spanish relations survive Brexit?

As the events of the last few days show, the increasingly toxic issue of Gibraltar means the UK’s Article 50 talks with Spain might become more fraught than either party would like. It’s not just that Spain wants to share sovereignty of the Rock with Britain; more dangerous is the fact that Brussels can exploit this dispute to punish the UK for Brexit. In fact, this weekend’s fracas over Gibraltar’s post-Brexit status shouldn’t have caused the uproar it did. True, the document distributed to EU member governments on Friday by Donald Tusk highlighted Spain’s ability to veto Gibraltar’s inclusion in any EU-UK deal; but as part of the soon-to-be 27 member bloc, Spain already possessed that ability. After all, every other member state would have a veto too.

Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: the Gibraltar row heats up

Theresa May says the way to deal with the row over Gibraltar is ‘jaw-jaw’ rather than war. And there is plenty of chatter on the subject in today’s newspapers: Of course we don’t want a war with Spain, says the Sun. But ‘nor will we sit quietly’ and let Madrid ‘launch its latest ridiculous attempt to claim the territory’. Some have said that Theresa May brought this mess upon herself, by failing to namecheck Gibraltar in her Article 50 letter to the European Union last week. This isn’t the case, says the paper, which points out that the PM is right to say the Rock’s ‘future is settled and its

The political dinosaurs aren’t helping matters

As a type of (Platonic) gerontophile, I never expected to say this, but can the dinosaurs not shut up? In recent weeks the nation has had to suffer repeat appearances on the television by Lord Heseltine.  In each interview the Remain-supporting peer appears ever more viciously angry – brimming over, indeed with a sort of concentrated, zealous fury at a nation that dared defy his imprecations on how to vote last June. Then this past weekend we had to witness the Leave-supporting Lord Howard talking up the possibility of war with Spain over Gibraltar.  This morning’s papers as a result get to talk quasi-seriously about a military confrontation over the rock. 

The EU’s Gibraltar mistake

It was quite right for Theresa May to not mention Gibraltar in her Article 50 letter – why should the future of its people be in question in our negotiations? To do so would be to introduce a dangerous notion: that Gibraltar and its people were somehow a bargaining chip. Of course, the press will have fun with the idea that the Prime Minister forgot Gibraltar but far more plausible is Tim Shipman’s story in the Sunday Times today that the idea of mentioning it in the Brexit letter was raised several times – and rejected. That the EU has brought Gibraltar up as part of the Brexit deals right now is strange and shows a worrying

Sunday political interviews round-up: ‘Show resolve’ over Gibraltar

Michael Howard – ‘Show resolve’ over Gibraltar Former Conservative leader Michael Howard caused a stir on social media after his appearance on the Sunday Politics regarding his comments about Spain and Gibraltar. Interviewed by Andrew Neil, Howard stated that the British government should respond ‘as it has responded, by making it absolutely clear that we will stand by Gibraltar.’ He then continued: ‘35 years ago this week Andrew, another woman Prime Minister sent a taskforce 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

A very special relationship

You learn startling things about the long entanglement of the British with Spain on every page of Simon Courtauld’s absorbing and enjoyable new book, which is not a travelogue but a collection of historical vignettes arranged geographically. Did you know, for instance, that the first Spanish football team was founded by two Scottish doctors working for Rio Tinto in Huelva, and that in 1907 a team of seminarians from the English College in Valladolid defeated one representing Real Madrid? Or that the first visit by a reigning British monarch to Spain occurred when Queen Victoria went to have lunch with Queen Maria Cristina at the Aiete Palace in San Sebastián,

Portrait of the week | 28 July 2016

Home The collapse of BHS after Sir Philip Green had extracted large sums and left the business on ‘life support’, with a £571 million pension deficit, was ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism,’ said a report by the Business and the Work and Pensions select committees of the House of Commons. The British economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the quarter ending in June. A man was shot dead at a commercial pool party in Headley, Surrey, organised by Summerlyn Farquharson, known as the Female Boss Krissy, and the Jamaican reggae artist Jason White, known as Braintear Spookie. HMS Ambush, a Royal Navy Astute-class nuclear-powered submarine, was in a ‘glancing collision’ with

Nimble-witted wanderer

It was a certain unforgettable ex-girlfriend, Harry Mount confesses — named only as ‘S’ in his dedication — who came up with the idea for this new book, which he has therefore written to honour her, or in the hope of winning her back, or possibly, in some obscure way, to annoy her. Whichever it is, S must surely share some blame for its misleading subtitle. You can’t follow in the ‘footsteps’ of mythology’s greatest sailor. As Homer repeatedly says in the Odyssey, ‘No one travels on foot to Ithaca.’ OK, this is pedantic, but the author doesn’t really follow in Odysseus’s wake either. If that’s the book you want,

Portrait of the week | 21 November 2013

Home The government announced proposals for the National Health Service, including a law to criminalise wilful neglect by doctors and nurses, and a scheme to post online the numbers of nurses on wards. By the end of October, 219 households had seen work completed to insulate their houses under the government’s Green Deal, launched last January. Nick Boles, the planning minister, suggested that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, might like to revive the National Liberal Party, an organisation affiliated to the Conservative party from 1947 to 1968. The Foreign Office summoned the Spanish ambassador after a Spanish ship entered waters off Gibraltar and undertook surveying activity for 20 hours. A

Perfidious Brussels

The European Commission, having done nothing about recent Spanish sabre rattling over the self-determination of Gibraltar, has launched a full investigation into the Gibraltarian tax system. And who heads up the department that has launched this EU investigation? Señor Almunia. And what country does he come from? Have a guess.

Hitler’s missed opportunity: failing to smash the rock of Gibraltar

It may be that only geological erosion, expected to occur sometime over the next ten million years, will finally remove Gibraltar as a source of friction between Britain and Spain. In the meantime, with a poll showing that nearly two thirds of Spaniards support their government’s current tough line on the territory, David Cameron has again reassured the Rock’s chief minister Fabian Picardo that Britain will always stand up for Gibraltar and safeguard the interests of its people. But while the tension is real and enduring, there is no suggestion on either side that the situation might be resolved by force. Seventy-three years ago, in the autumn of 1940, the

Letters: Peter Hitchens vs Nick Cohen, and the case against the middle class

Piggies in the middle Sir: Your feature ‘The strange death of the middle class’ (24 August) assumes that young people who do not attend fee-paying schools cannot have access to the same opportunities as those who do. I attended my local comprehensive in the first decade of this century. Despite the variable teaching quality, I did well in exams, went on to a good university, and now work for an aerospace company. I can afford to rent a flat, go on holiday and save a little, all on an income not much higher than the average starting salary for a graduate. I have not inherited any money, nor did I

Letters: GPs reply to J. Merion Thomas

Some doctors write Sir: Professor Meirion Thomas (‘Dangerous medicine’, 17 August) may be an excellent surgeon but he is uninformed about the nature of GPs’ work. For many older consultants in the NHS, it will have been decades since they last spent any time in a GP setting, if they have at all. He fails to realise that 95 per cent of the work of diagnosing, treating and caring for patients takes place within general practice. Common illnesses range from depression, to diabetes, asthma and hypertension, as well as many others. Dr Meirion Thomas’s idea that nurse specialists are the answer betrays his lack of understanding that most patients present

Gibraltar isn’t the world’s weirdest border

Borders are fascinating places. The subtle changes in scenery and atmosphere as you near the limits of one territory and enter the orbit of the other; the way fencing gets higher and fiercer. Then there’s the shuffling of papers and passports, the opening of suitcases, car boots and, sometimes, wallets. The nervous sweat in no-man’s-land as men who reek of tobacco and bad coffee judge your suitability to enter or, worse, leave. In nearly all ways the (more or less) borderless new Europe is a wonderful thing, but something has been lost along the way. If ordinary borders are weird, then the very special lines that surround the world’s several

The villain of the Gibraltar piece

As the Gibraltar situation rumbles on, those familiar with the situation blame the Spanish Foreign Minister José García-Margallo for Spain’s bully-boy tactics. I’m told that he’s far more gung-ho on the matter than Prime Minister Rajoy on the matter. What makes the Foreign Minister’s behaviour particularly galling is that he began his career as the representative for one of Spain’s African enclaves in the Spanish parliament. If Melilla can be Spanish, then Gibraltar can be British. But as Danny Finkelstein points out in The Times today, one senses that Spanish politicians would rather have the Gibraltar issue than Gibraltar. If they really did want Gibraltar to become part of Spain

What did President Eisenhower say about the ‘military industrial complex’?

The ‘routine’ deployment of HMS Illustrious and two bustling frigates to Gibraltar, en route to the Gulf of Aden, has excited the morning papers. And the evacuation of the American consulate in Lahore gets lots of attention, following the closure of consulates and embassies across the Middle East last weekend. Neither story is the most interesting defence news item today. The Telegraph’s Con Coughlin reports that a huge defence contract could see the establishment of a permanent British military presence in the Gulf. He writes: ‘If a deal can be agreed – and detailed negotiations have been under way for more than a year – then the six states (Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, Qatar,