Richard North, 04/02/2005  

Tiresome lot, the Spanish government. I suppose they cannot stop people from demonstrating against democracy in Arab countries; nor can they really do anything very much about the same (and many other) people’s indifference to their own democracy. But must they really go on about Gibraltar?

Presumably, it is all part of the same problem – a dislike of democratic popular opinion. Election in Iraq is a bad idea and a clear expression of popular feeling through several referendums in Gibraltar is also a bad idea. Well, they ought to be pleased with the projected turn-out for the referendum on the coming Constitution for Europe.

Right now, they are upset because the nuclear submarine HMS Sceptre has docked in the south of the island for repairs. The Spanish Foreign Minister has peevishly announced that his government had asked for no more British nuclear submarines to dock in Gibraltar for repairs or any purpose.

No doubt, this is called behaving like a good European.

Actually, not all is lost, because as the aforementioned Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, has explained, the break-down is not in the nuclear system but in the diesel engine’s cooling systems, having somewhat belatedly remembered that it is possible environmental pollution he is supposed to be complaining about, a non-issue as he himself acknowledged.

It did not take him long to get back to the subject that was really bothering him:
"We have asked that no more nuclear submarines be given repairs for this kind of breakdown in future, whatever their nature or scale, and for us in future to be able to restore calm in our co-operation with the United Kingdom, which we want to be as fruitful as possible."
How nice. What sort of fruit would that be?

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