As Brexit draws closer Gibraltar’s shared border with Spain is under scrutiny. Despite the iconic ‘Rock’ being world renowned, Gibraltar’s history and culture is little understood beyond the peninsula itself.
Gibraltarians are proudly British, the results from two referendums (1967 and 2001) both coming in at over 90% in favour of remaining British. This national pride is often lazily portrayed in the media as ‘brits abroad’ whereas in fact the reality is far more complicated.
The Rock’s strategic location as the British Empire’s access point to the Mediterranean has insured that since gaining it from the Dutch in 1713, Gibraltar and its naval facilities have played a key role in most of the UK’s international conflicts.
As the Empire crumbled post WW2 and the UN pushed for decolonisation, Gibraltar remained. This does not make it a relic; despite its isolated location it shares similar ideals to the rest of the modern UK as a multi-cultural and diverse nation that has always welcomed others regardless of faith or race.
As the uncertainty of Brexit looms Gibraltar stands in a unique position, physically connected to mainland Europe and with a population that voted Remain by 96% it will soon be facing the consequences of a result it never wanted.
It’s very tricky to say what the post Brexit changes will be for Gibraltar, just like the rest of the UK we are heading into the unknown. The crux of the issue is the land border with Spain, currently freedom of movement enables people to cross it very rapidly so there are many people living in the neighboring town of La Linea who work in Gibraltar.
It’s not just workers who cross, most of Gibraltar’s food enters via the border. As a result, any disruption to border could have a big impact.
A worst-case scenario would be where the border is permanently closed, this happened from under 1969 to 1985 the Franco regime. Those were really tough times for the Gibraltarians however in this day and age a closure is unlikely, instead Spain could exert pressure by slowing down the crossing process, by how much and for how long will determine the exact impact on Gibraltar’s people.
Although the majority of Gibraltar’s population is Roman Catholic, all the world’s major religions are represented on The Rock. Unfortunately, we see religions around the world in conflict and often these disputes revolve around land and territory. So in Gibraltar with such a high population density it is refreshing to see everyone living side by side. Although Gibraltar is very different to the mainland UK, as a Londoner to me it is this diversity that echoes my own experience of being British.
By Luke Archer