Politicians and commentators have reacted with anger and disbelief over a top Tory’s suggestion the UK should be prepared to threaten war with Spain, amid a flurry of eyebrow-raising stories that emerged on the first weekend after triggering Article 50.
Ex-Tory leader Lord Michael Howard’s suggestion Theresa May would go to war with Spain to “stand by” the people of Gibraltar prompted a backlash over Brexiteer “sabre-rattling”.
Lord Howard told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday the Government would adopt the same position as Margaret Thatcher took during the Falklands conflict in 1982, when British troops were sent to protect the overseas territory from Argentina’s military dictatorship.
Lord Howard repeated the comments on the BBC’s Sunday Politics. He later told Channel 4 News he was not advocating war, but added he saw “no harm in reminding them what sort of people we are”.
Madrid has repeatedly called for Gibraltar – which has been under British rule since 1713 - to be returned to Spain, and there are now fears the peninsula could be used as a bargaining chip as the EU and UK negotiate a trade deal.
The Conservative peer made the comments after the EU insisted any post-Brexit trade deal with the UK would not apply to Gibraltar unless Spain approved the measure.