Being British is a linguistic problem

Dear Sir,

Earlier this year, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published its report 'Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship', and one territory that was virtually absent from it was Gibraltar, the irony being that it was while visiting the Rock that I first read about it. Although the Deputy Chief Minister wrote to say that the Chief Minister was willing to give evidence to the Committee, as his predecessor did in 2008, he gave none, oral or written. 

Nor did anyone else in Gibraltar, not even the Representation in Westminster Movement, despite the Committee seeking to find out how people in the various territories felt about the issue, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office being the department responsible for them - one suggestion was that the Cabinet Office take over responsibility. That said, it was interesting to get away from the Gibraltar-centric perspective and learn more about the misgivings over Brexit from Anguilla to Pitcairn.

One question the Committee raised was whether there should be a collective term for the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories, rather than the 'British family' or 'UK family'. Perhaps it could be 'British Realm' - 'British Community' or 'British Union' would be more problematic, though the French overseas territories were in a French Union and then a looser French Community, with 'Commonwealth' even more so.

Reading reports in the Gibraltar media, it reflects the confusion in terminology between British citizens from the UK and those from Gibraltar. GBC, for example, refers to one or other man as 'a British man', rather than the more precise 'UK man', assuming nationality is relevant at all, while Panorama made reference to 'English citizens living in Spain' - have Scotland and Wales declared independence on the quiet, along with Northern Ireland joining the Republic?

In fairness, in the nineteenth century, it was common to refer to the UK as 'England' within the context of the British Empire, and in the eighteenth century, to talk of 'Americans and Britons' even before US independence, so one Gibraltarian who objected to the term 'Briton' being applied to him wasn't entirely pedantic. However, I had to laugh when he said it was because Gibraltar's ethnic heritage was 'unrivalled', least of all compared to that of 'the Brits'. Really? Honestly, you need to get out more!

And a little humility please. The people of Saint Helena, are descended from Zulu, Malay, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Italian, Portuguese and Irish as well as British descent, with the end result often very attractive. They have had to put up with treatment that Gibraltarians wouldn't stand for, like no right of abode in the UK until 2002, though their problem is not that they have a sense of entitlement, it's that they haven't had nearly enough of one.

After soldiers from the UK called them 'Bennies', after Benny Hawkins, the woolly-hatted simpleton Benny Hawkins on the soap opera Crossroads, Falkland Islanders returned the compliment by calling them 'Whennies', on account of their reminiscences about 'when I was in Cyprus/Germany/Hong Kong....' However, apart from 'guiri', which is a generic Spanish term for northern European, I haven't heard a term used for people from the UK in Gibraltar, similar to 'come overs', used for them in the Isle of Man, or how 'sloppies' is for the Spanish - maybe 'rainies' or 'rainy denses' from the Spanish 'reinounidense' or 'United Kingdomers'?

Regards

Ken Westmoreland

06-12-2019 PANORAMAdailyGIBRALTAR