When I spent my first summers in the UK as high school student in the early 1980s, two things struck me – the discipline with which British people queued at bus stops and the war movies that were shown every day at prime time in at least one of
the four TV channels available back then. Both seemed to have gone when I moved to the UK some three years ago, at least in London. Listening to Michael Howard over the weekend implicitly threatening Spain with war over the Gibraltar
dispute, I feel transported back into the 1980s, though not necessarily in a good sense. Threatening another European country with a democratically elected government with war at the beginning of what promise to be very difficult two-year Brexit negotiations
seems like getting off on the wrong foot – or shall I say: on the wrong boot? But it also helps remind us what the EU has accomplished over the past 60 years – peace and a forum to settle conflicts like these one in a peaceful manner,
a situation we take too easily as granted!
And just to make sure we all understand the difference between the Falklands war that Michael Howard referred to and the current stand-off. In 1982, the military dictatorship in Buenos
Aires, with their back to the wall did what many regimes do in these circumstances do – try to get an easy win in “foreign policy” by invading the Falklands. The UK reacted swiftly and forcefully – and correctly in my opinion though
I found myself in a minority in my high school class surrounded by peace loving fellow students who defended Argentina’s right to an island, 500 kilometers away from the continent, which had never really been party of Argentina in the first place. The
current stand-off is based on a sentence in the draft of the EU’s negotiation guidelines that states the obvious – Spain (like 26 other EU countries) has a veto right over any post-Brexit deal between the UK and the EU. And while it can be interpreted
as an early diplomatic snub to the UK, it will not be the last one – as everyone predicted, the negotiating powers have shifted from London to Brussels and 27 EU capitals after 29 March. Threatening to send in the troops won’t change that!
The Brexiters claiming that the future after Brexit will be nothing but bright with great free trade agreements, full sovereignty and amazing freedom have very much resembled young children whistling in the dark forest to overcome
their fears. Turning up the volume to sabre-rattling does not make the situation any easier. Or is someone looking for easy gains in “foreign policy” to make up for weaknesses at home?