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By Jason Michael
Blackmailing Europe for a trade deal after Brexit is one thing, but going as far as threatening to crush another EU member state with your navy is quite another. Britain isn’t used to saying please – but shorty it will have to learn how to say Por Favor.
It was only yesterday, writing for RTÉ in Dublin, that Seán Whelan wrote that the “thuggery was unmistakable” in Theresa May’s letter to the EU triggering Article 50. “Nice European Union you got there,” he paraphrased Britain’s threat to President Tusk, “shame if something was to happen to it.” From England’s infamous football supporters chanting references to a war that ended seventy-two years ago to the embarrassing spectacle of “boozed up Brits abroad” picking fights with innocent German holidaymakers on the Costas, England has gained an impressive international reputation for wrecking its own reputation.
On the thirty-fifth anniversary of the start of Margaret Thatcher’s election winning Falklands War, Michael Howard – former Conservative leader – and the current Secretary of Defence Michael Fallon’s suggestion that Britain would go to war with Spain – “another Spanish speaking country” – over Gibraltar has done nothing to improve things. Whelan appears to be right; aggression, threats, intimidation, and bully tactics are Britain’s default negotiating strategies. It’s no secret.
We are after all talking about a state that shot and butchered its way around the world for the better part of three centuries, subjugating defeated nations by racialised and dehumanising categories into imperial slavery. In all of its existence Britain has never learned to see non-Britons qua Anglo-Saxon Protestant Englanders – especially the tan and brown ones – as equals worthy of respect. Britain does not negotiate. Britain makes demands. This is as it has always been. Even as recently as 2014, when faced with the possibility of having to negotiate the independence of Scotland, all the necessary moves were made in preparation for the annexation of the Shetland islands and the lion’s share of Scotland’s North Sea oil fields. Force and violence are Britain’s normal.
So, after Madrid announced it would not veto Scotland’s re-entry into the EU after independence, the prospect of having to negotiate or compromise with Spain over Gibraltar during the Article 50 process has prompted a predictable British response – threats and intimidation. In “Lord” Howard’s limited understanding Spain – an EU member and NATO ally – and Argentina’s 1982 military junta have something in common; they are almost the same threat – they both speak Spanish.
What we have is Basil Fawlty, taking a break from lambasting “tenement Scots,” shouting at Manuel: “Hay mucho burro alli!” They’re all the same to the petty-minded little Englander – those Spaniards, Degos, Slopis, and Argies. What’s the difference, they all speak the same – right?! Britain’s go-to imperialist setting races straight back to Francis Drake playing with his balls in 1588, or the HMS Sheffield being reminded that Las Malvinas son Argentinas in 1982, and thinks they’re all the same – we’ll show them what’s what the good old British way.
This is all well and good so long as it’s just the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and some old Tories pleasuring themselves with their toy soldiers to the tune of the British Grenadiers, but this is the real world and it’s 2017. War isn’t going to happen here; no matter how much the British tabloid media rants about “crippling” Spain’s army and navy of “donkey rogerers.” Spain is a grown-up modern country, a member of the European Union, and an ally with European powers of significant military clout. All the Spanish are seeing is Britain showing its true colours, and Theresa May really ought to be thinking about what the Spanish now have to say in Brussels.
Michael Howard on Defending Gibraltar