James Callaghan pictured with broadcaster Jimmy Young in 1979. (Photo: Getty)
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Weekly round-up: politics, business and news from Gibraltar

A selection of the best articles about politics, business and life on the Rock from the last seven days.

The summer sailing calendar is going to get a kickstart at the end of this week when the 125th annual Gibraltar to Morocco Smir Yacht Rally gets going on Friday. The Olive Press reports that once again it’s being sponsored by Ocean Village and Boat Shed Gibraltar. We’ll be bringing you a fuller preview on the 9th.

More stories are emerging about the resignation of Sir James Dutton as Governor of the territory as we’ve reported previously, although they don’t appear to do anything other than contradict each other. The Daily Telegraph says he resigned because the British Government refused to stand up to Spain; he denies this in a statement to the Gibraltar Chronicle.

This ambivalence is nothing new. The Chronicle has also uncovered old papers on the then British Prime Minister Jim Callaghan’s uncertainty over how to handle Gibraltar following the death of Franco in Spain.

Society is changing across the Western world and Gibraltar is no exception; the Gibraltar Chronicle (last mention this bulletin we promise, we do check more than one paper!) reports two major unions are supporting the Equal Civil Marriage campaign, in which the idea is to allow religious marriages to have as many strictures and rules as they believe are appropriate while the civil versions would become legally equal to everyone regardless of orientation.

Finally, it is of course no joke when people get too close to the Barbary Apes and find themselves bitten or otherwise molested. If someone approaches them whilst wearing a bikini and they whip it off, it’s definitely serious. But when, as reported in the Daily Mirror, she reports them to the police and apparently tries to press charges, we do our best but we can’t help giggle just a bit. The quote from the police at the end of the Mirror story is a classic.

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.

Photo: Getty
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Gibraltar and Europe: caught in the slipstream?

The British papers are full of who has the lead in the European in or out campaigns – Guy Clapperton considers the fallout for the smaller territories

Let’s start by acknowledging that there is no clear pattern emerging in the Europe debate, as long as we understand “Europe debate” to mean whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union. This week alone we’ve seen Boris Johnson “warning Obama off” (as the BBC put it) getting involved in the debated, the same London Mayor and MP having a radio spat with Chuka Umunna involving telling each other to man up and various insults traded as either side accuses the other of scaremongering or making it up as they go along.

Divining who’s going to win is more difficult. The Daily Telegraph reports that “out” has it by a tiny margin but, crucially, the anti-Europe vote is likely to be more motivated so will actually show up on the day, expanding the margin by which it will win. Meanwhile the Times’ daily Red Box email points to Elections Etc. whose research suggests a 58% “remain” vote but with a plus or minus 14% error margin; so somewhere between 44% and 72% will go for staying in the EU. This, readers will note, tells us precisely nothing.

So the outcome, even if there weren’t 100 days in which Presidents and world leaders will offer counsel, claims and counterclaims will be made and the “leave” campaign will eventually decide who the official “leave” group actually is (there are two factions at the moment, doing the best impression of the Monty Python Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea that they can manage), we wouldn’t want to call a snap referendum even if it were to be called this afternoon.

What’s clear is that the outcome will ripple beyond the British mainland’s shores, and the ramifications of an “out” vote are already being felt on Gibraltar. Anyone doubting this should check today’s Times (subscription required), in which the Gibraltarian Chief Minister Fabian Picardo highlights recent Spanish statements about what would happen in the event of a Brexit.

Spain actually caused a few eyebrows to raise and some other people to panic just a little with its recent statements. Essentially the country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, suggested that there would be conversations on the sovereignty of Gibraltar the “day after” an announcement of a British exit, according to the Daily Mail and other reports. He also said (much, much further down the report) that he didn’t want Britain to leave: “God forbid” is the phrase he uses.

He raised the idea of joint sovereignty once again more recently, reports the Gibraltar Chronicle, this time suggesting that if Britain leaves Europe then Gib could do what it nearly did (he says) in 2002 and start transitioning towards Spain. This is an interesting definition of “nearly” when 98.48% of the electorate actually voted not to do so, but remaining British when this might exclude the Rock from Europe would inevitably raise different issues if not a different final outcome.

Outside Gibraltarian interests the effect could be more severe than that. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made no secret of her wish to make a fresh case for Scottish independence. The once-in-a-generation referendum on this was lost in 2014 but should Britain exit Europe with a majority of Scots clearly demonstrating that they want to stay in, the case becomes stronger (although the collapse of the oil price would blow the original blueprint out of the water).

So we could end up with Scotland as well as Gibraltar wanting to remain in Europe while Britain made its exit. Whether this would be legally possible if both stayed tied to Britain is untested as yet – and with Spain eager to enter talks the day after an exit is agreed but the Gibraltarians implacably opposed to becoming Spanish, the way forward would not be clear.

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.