Brexit could destroy Gibraltar’s Britishness argues new book

  • Date

    Thu 28 Mar 19

Contrary to popular opinion, the ‘Britishness’ of Gibraltar cannot be taken for granted and is hugely threatened by Brexit, according to the Essex academic behind a new book on Gibraltarian identity.


Bordering on Britishness – National Identity in Gibraltar from the Spanish Civil War to Brexit looks at how the Gibraltarian Britishness which has evolved over the course of the twentieth century, is rooted in the political and economic security and protection provided by the UK.

"..... I think we'll find the loyalty that many Gibraltarians currently feel towards the UK will wane."
Professor Andrew Canessa department of sociology 

Professor Andrew Canessa from our Department of Sociology is the book’s editor. He said: “If we get to a situation where the security and protection provided to Gibraltar by the UK can no longer be given, I think we’ll find the loyalty that many Gibraltarians currently feel towards the UK will wane.

“Currently Gibraltarians tend to speak English, have full British citizenship and see themselves as culturally different to the Spanish across the border. But, we have to remember that well into the second half of the twentieth century Gibraltarians were overwhelmingly Spanish speaking, had a high rate of intermarriage with Spaniards – most Gibraltarians over a certain age have at least one Spanish grandparent - and maintained strong links with their Spanish neighbours across the border.

“Post Brexit, Spain will become Gibraltar’s EU neighbour and the UK will no longer be in the EU to defend Gibraltar. It will be the UK that is obliged to recognise Spain’s interest over Gibraltar if, for example, the UK would ever seek to rejoin the EU.

“Spain has a veto over any future trade relationship with Gibraltar and the two countries have already published a series of Memorandums of Understanding, which have served to establish Spain’s interest in Gibraltar’s affairs. It is likely Spain will only ramp up the leverage in the future.

“At present, the official line from Gibraltar is that the UK has not let them down. But 96% of Gibraltarians voted to remain in the EU. Politically, the cracks in the relationship with the UK are already there. Financially, if, post-Brexit, the EU economy grows faster than that of the UK the economic links between the two will weaken.

“Over time, Spain may start to look like a better partner. Dual sovereignty between the UK and Spain may become the elegant solution, even if it is currently soundly rejected by a large majority of Gibraltarians. What our research shows is that people´s attitudes can change quite radically over time.”

The book is the culmination of the largest oral history project on Gibraltarian identity to date, entitled Bordering on Britishness. Professor Canessa was the Principal Investigator on the project, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It ran for four years and collected approximately 400 oral histories from a wide range of people resident in Gibraltar and Spain.

The book is published by Palgrave Macmillan.