REGARDLESS of the fact that an incompetent Foreign Office had inferred to the Argentine government that Britain was not particularly bothered about keeping sovereignty over the Falkland Islands in the early 1980s, it appears that nothing had been learnt from the war that followed!
In a document released by the British government on August 31, just two years later in 1984, the then Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe (later Lord Howe) appeared quite committed to pushing Gibraltar towards the arms of the Spanish following the re-opening of the border.
Recognising that the contents of the eight page document could be considered highly contentious, it was not given wide circulation within Whitehall or indeed Parliament but it promoted the concept of a slow but steady improvement in ties between Gibraltar and Spain in a manner that is described as being akin to the ‘peeling of an onion.’
To some, it may come as something of a surprise that the Foreign Secretary whose ability to attack an opponent was described by Denis Healey as “like being savaged by a dead sheep” could have allowed this document to be issued, but it does show that politicians will act in what they consider to be the best interest of the majority.
As Hamlet reminded everyone who would listen that ‘one may smile, and smile, and be a villain’ it is something that the government of Gibraltar would be well advised to remember as successive British governments have broken promises whenever it was politically acceptable and each member of the European Union will make demands as Britain tries to negotiate acceptable exit agreements.