Various news outlets have noted that today is the 300th anniversary of British occupation of Gibraltar (in conjunction at that time with our friends the Dutch). The war of Spanish succession which permitted the initial conquest was probably about as pointless a squabble as any and most of the belligerants seemed to be in it for reasons that had nothing directly to do with who shold rule Spain. Hence after a variety of battles one way and another it was all reduced to haggling in the Treaty of Utrecht. One of the results of this was that the British crown was ceded perpertual rights to Gibraltar in no uncertain terms, however the Spanish don't see it this way and they want it back since, unlike all the other parts of the glorious 16th and 17th century Spanish empire which have since fallen by the wayside, this bit is a part of the Iberian peninsular and thus territorially connected to Spain. Unfortunately Spain has been remarkably lax about defending a place that is apparently so key to Spain - as described in this historical piece:
By the year 1309, King Ferdinand IV had laid siege on Algeciras and, learning of Arab weakness on the Rock sent Alonso Perez de Guzman to capture it.
... By 1333 Gibraltar was once more in Muslim hands as Abdul Malik, son of the king of Morocco, laid siege. The garrison surrendered after four and a half months of siege. More sieges were to follow until 1462 when the Spaniards finally captured Gibraltar from the Muslims.
The strategic value of Gibraltar then declined as it became just another Spanish provincial town. Few people wanted to settle on the Rock as had happened earlier...
...In the summer of 1540 a large fleet of pirates assembled, and raided the poorly defended Gibraltar.
The Spanish government seems to get worked up about Gibraltar at regular intervals and today's celebration is another example. To a disinterested outsider it seems odd that, despite centuries of neglect then and utter failure to retake the place in various sieges during the 18th century, Spain considers Gibralter, which has been under Spanish control for a mere under 266 years in total since it first took the place in 1309, to be so important to Spain. A less disinterested observer would wonder in what way this differs from Spain's occcupation of Melilla and Ceuta and various tiny islands in North Africa despite periodic requests from the Moroccans for their return.
A truly sarcastic observer would note that this is similar to Spain's control of Olivenza, which, according to numerous treaties including the 1815 Treaty of Vienna is Portuguese territory. Funnily enough in both Olivenza and the Moroccan territories Spain claims that the local inhabitants wish to remain part of Spain and that this wish should be taken into consideration. The same applies to Gibraltar where the inhabaitants have firmly rejected Spanish rule in recent votes and referenda. Since both international treaty and the wishes of the inhabitants are against Spanish control there seems to be no grounds for Spain to expect Gibraltar back.
The Spanish are, however, in danger of exposing themselves to some rather nasty side-effects if they continue to press for Gibraltar's return since the Moors occupied Gibraltar from 711 until 1462 with a brief break of some 24 years in the early 1300s. Thus, following Spanish logic, a reasonable claim could be made that the successor to the Caliphate should actually have control of Gibraltar and of course much of the rest of Andalusia. Given the recent Madrid bombings and the ravings of various Al Qaeda leaders on the subject of Andalusia, were Spain to take over Gibraltar that could be used as a precedent for Islamic terrorism in both Gibraltar and Andalusia.
The Spanish hoped (and it seems some British Europhiles agreed) that the EU and "ever closer union" would result in a de facto change of control. This may still happen, the EU may indeed become a superstate, but I am increasingly sceptical. Gibraltar may turn out to be a part of the straw that breaks the camel's back as the UK and other nations insist on referenda.
In the grand scheme of things I guess the Gibraltar issue is unlikely to do much for the Europhobic cause in the UK, which should be won on issues of economic comparison (such as UK growth of 3% or more this year vs Eurozone growth of at most 2% and unemployment - UK <5% and decreasing, Euro average 9%+ and static to rising). But it is likely to be symptomatic, not so much of loss of empire or sovereignty though that also applies, as of the EU Elite's utter disregard for the desires or feelings of the people they rule. Something that most of the unfortunates involved in the War of Spanish Succession 300 years ago would tend to recognise.
Plus ça change... as they say and it applies to the economic situation as well. In 1704 the British were taking the first hesitent steps of the Industrial Revolution. Agurculture was being revolutionized and the first steam engines was being developed by Savery and Newcomen. Moreover the town and city guilds were losing ground in Britain in ways that they were not on the continent. Likewise, thanks to the establishment of the Bank of England and other city institutions such as Lloyds and the London Stock Exchange, financial matters were far more advanced than they were in most of the rest of Europe. Despite the best efforts of the Guardianistas to apply excessive EUrocratic regulation Britain in 2004 has similar differences.