the euro zone

An ongoing dispute

This week saw Spain have another crack at regaining some power in Gibraltar, thus making the latest contribution to an argument it's been having with Britain since the early 18th century. Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis told the UK's Financial Times last weekend that Spain wants to take joint control of the territory's airport with the UK post-Brexit, as well as having more say on tax evasion and smuggling.

Fair enough, you might say. Requesting that Spain have a say in the management of Gibraltar's airport is hardly a flag-waving, tub-thumping demand to reclaim this weird place. He told the FT that regaining sovereignty of Gibraltar - which Spain lost to Britain in 1713 after the Wars of Spanish Succession - is not on the agenda right now, but that it's still a long-term goal. So, viewed just by themselves, his latest requests seem entirely reasonable, given that Gibraltar is located on the Iberian Peninsula and that hundreds of Spanish workers stroll over the border from La Linea de la Concepción every day to work there.

That's not how Dastis' proposals will go down in London, though. May's (completely hopeless) government is likely to maintain that Britain's withdrawal from the EU won't make Gibraltar any less part of Britain than it is now, so there is no reason that it should share management of the airport with Spain post-Brexit. But lurking behind that argument is a territorial dispute that goes back right back to 1713, when Britain was ceded Gibraltar as part of the Treaty of Utrecht.

This document officially gave the British hegemony over Gibraltar's old town (today a bizarre combination of British high street shops and pubs with Genoese and Andalusian architecture) and port, but it said nothing of the surrounding waters, nor of the isthmus. The isthmus is the thin strip of land that connects the Rock to Spain, and on which the airport is located - a strip of land which Spain maintains is Spanish and the UK says is British. The same goes for the 426-metre-high Rock itself, mention of which was also omitted in the 1713 treaty. Dastis said early last year that Spain wants all these parts of Gibraltar back under Spanish jurisdiction.

In London, his latest requests will be seen as the first small steps towards doing precisely this; and as such, they're probably going to be firmly rejected. And so the 300 year-old dispute over the Rock continues, fuelled on either side by national pride, stubbornness and disagreement over the contents of a document dating from 1713. Perhaps if the UK saw Spain dilute its power in its northern African territories of Ceuta and Melilla, it would be prepared to compromise a little. Come on, Dastis: set an example.