Dear Sir, I was in Gibraltar for my first time a few weeks ago. I had travelled from Granada and noticed on my Spanish tourist map of Andalusía that Gibraltar wasn't marked. It reminded me of the Arab Middle East where Israel was always blacked out in any newspaper or magazine. Out of Sight – Out of Mind? Gibraltar is equally nationalistic. Most Gibraltarians are not ethnically British but have opted to be so and as such are very loyal to the UK.

Gibraltar is unusual to say the least a mix of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick (starring Peter Sellers) and Pimlico (Stanley Holloway). With its gigantic rock it is a fortress/garrison town. There are ramparts and redoubts about every 100 yards. Like the Charge of the Light Brigade there are “Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them” fortunately not volleying nor thundering. The current spat between Gibraltar and Spain is small beer. In its 300 year history it has repulsed French, Spanish, German and Italian Armies as would be invaders.

Gib depends on tourism. In quantity it is on a par with the Baleares but of a different type. Not so much sun, sea and sand but battlements and bachelor weekends. The Trafalgar Cemetery contains the remains of victims of the great sea battle. Well apparently only 2 of the 450+ were buried here but no matter. Their resting place was renovated and renamed Trafalgar in the 80/90s almost 200 years late but in time for the tourist boom.

Gib depends on tax dodges. We all know about the cheap cigarettes (half the Spanish price, one quarter the UK) due to zero VAT but the much more lucrative is cheap ship fuel that costs Spain much more in lost revenue. Corporate tax is low at 10% making Gibraltar a tax haven.

All of this was set up by the UK Government over time and worse given this small town council almost national powers. Imagine a place the size of Inca with the Mayor taking direct action upsetting David Cameron in Westminster bypassing Mariano Rajoy in the Moncloa. The dumping of concrete blocks in disputed fishing waters without apparent reference to the British Government falls into this category.

Herein lies a possible route out of the perennial disputes. The UK Government claims to want to restrict tax evasion. Here they can demonstrate if they have real commitment by unilaterally scrapping Gibraltar's special tax status - eliminating the fractious subjects of smuggling and Spaniards evading tax.

Then sign the ex-colony up to the Schengen accord ending border controls (and delays). In a word to make Gibraltar European. Gibraltar would lose out as a tax haven but tourism (a much bigger employer) would be largely unaffected. Over time (some decades?) dual nationality could be proposed again when the hot heads on both sides have gone to a better place!

Mike Lillico
Playa de Palma


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