The latest Brexit question is over Gibraltar. Should the British outpost on the southern tip of Spain be called a colony? But the answer is of little concern to Gibraltarians, who are reportedly more worried about life after the UK splits from the European Union next month.
The British government complained last week that the peninsula of 33,000 residents should not have been described as a “colony” in a draft EU text on visa-free travel.
According to the Reuters news agency, however, Britain itself called Gibraltar a “crown colony” for 268 years — from when it won it in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that ended the War of Spanish Succession, right up until 1981 when it came up with a new name for it: “dependent territory”. In 2002, the official term changed again to “British overseas territory”.
Until at least the 1980s, Gibraltarians carried passports that said “Colony of Gibraltar” right on the front cover. No matter.
“Gibraltar is not a colony and it is completely inappropriate to describe it in this way,” Britain’s ambassador to the EU thundered. “Gibraltar is a full part of the UK family.”
Gibraltarians, whose economy depends on an open border with Spain, voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in Britain’s 2016 referendum, but are due to leave the bloc anyway on March 29 along with the rest of Britain.