In 2014, I voted in elections to the European Parliament as a voter in the South West England constituency, which had included Gibraltar for the past ten years. It was touching to see a familiar name, that of Lyana Armstrong-Emery, on the ballot paper, the only candidate from Gibraltar on a party list, though also surreal, given how little others in the region knew of it, or her. 

And even if direct elections to the European Parliament were still going to be held in the UK and Gibraltar in June, I would prefer, with its best interests at heart, that Gibraltar not form part of that constituency. It was always a strange pairing for the two of them, and having lived in this region of the UK, I believe that more strongly than ever.

Granted there are people in Gibraltar who wanted it to form a constituency in its own right, with its own MEP, and still do, hoping to remain within the EU under a kind of ‘reverse Greenland’ formula, but how feasible is this? There is less chance of such a thing than the UK remaining in the EU with Gibraltar still forming part of a larger UK regional constituency.


Of course, it would still be disadvantaged had it been made part of the London constituency instead, but given that it covers a large cosmopolitan city that voted Remain in 2016, it would have been a much better match. By contrast, South West England, in which Ukip trounced the Liberal Democrats in 2014, is largely rural and voted Leave, the reverse of Gibraltar.

Also unlike Gibraltar, the letters pages of daily newspapers in the region are soapboxes for Ukip bores. I have never forgiven the party for its shabby treatment of Gibraltar, first omitting it from its website, and when I pointed this out, then putting it under Cornwall. And to think Ukip sought to field candidates for the Gibraltar Parliament in the 2015 election!

In fairness, there are also letters from MEPs of other parties who mention that they are MEPs for both South West England and Gibraltar. Nevertheless, this is almost completely lost on their readers, who know little or nothing of the latter, and they reach a much smaller, and much older, readership than would those in the Evening Standard in London.

Yes, there are now regular direct flights from Bristol, and when I flew from there recently, they were almost full. However, that does not signify any special link between Gibraltar and that part of England than those from Birmingham or Manchester do with theirs. Or vice versa, as many passengers travel on from Gibraltar to Spain or from Bristol to Wales.

Indeed, the ‘South West’ region, like most of the English regions, is as artificial as its name is non-descript, with people in Devon, never mind Cornwall, being aghast at the prospect of being governed by a regional assembly in Bristol. This would be a toothless talking shop, without anything comparable to Gibraltar in terms of autonomy, or even Scotland.

Living in Taunton, the county town of Somerset, Plymouth seems as remote as Gibraltar, and not just to me. And while Kevin Kelway’s campaign for Gibraltar to be awarded the George Cross for its role in the Second World War may have been appreciated, his recent suggestion to make it part of a Westminster constituency in Plymouth would have been much less so.

Most countries in the EU, in fact, vote for the European Parliament on a national basis, not a regional one, even Germany, despite its size and federal system, as well as Finland. Its autonomous province of Åland, VAT-free like Gibraltar, and slightly smaller in population, votes as part of the same constituency as the rest of Finland, as one of its residents told Panorama.

Writing in 1999, Torbjorn Sundblum wrote: ‘I am from the Åland Islands (Scandinavia) that like Gibraltar has no EU-vote. We are, however, trying hard to persuade the Finns, that have 16 seats, to give us one. We have very strong arguments which the Finns are aware of but they don’t listen to us. It’s indeed exciting to see who first will obtain their EU-vote (we or Gib).’

However, he got the wrong end of the stick, as he and other Islanders already had the right to vote for the European Parliament, just not for a separate MEP, whereas at the time, Gibraltar had no such rights at all. By contrast, Belgium, which votes on a linguistic basis, has a single MEP to represent its German-speaking community of only 77 000 people, or 38 000 voters.

France, well known for integrating its former colonies into its national territory, has a separate ‘Overseas France’ constituency, which elects three MEPs to represent them. Ironically, one of these represents French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna in the Pacific, despite none of them ever having been in the EU, let alone in Europe like Gibraltar!


And then there’s Greenland, the model that Gibraltar has talked about putting into reverse. When Denmark joined the then EC in 1973, Greenland was taken into it against its will, although it did elect its own MEP. After gaining Home Rule, however, it was able to leave, whereas the Faroe Islands, which already had this, had been able to stay out.

Irrespective of what Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU is, be it ‘reverse Greenland’ or ‘sovereignty within the EU’, its link with the land of cider, pasties, Plymouth Argyle and the Glastonbury Festival, should go. It’s no worse a place than Gibraltar, but demographically and politically, the pairing of the two was the strangest of both worlds.