The Brexit dividend? Strife & disharmony as past conflicts are re-fought

Oil on canvas attributed to Willem van der Hagen showing The Battle of Malaga, August 13, 1704. It was a major battle in the Mediterranean following the historic capture of Gibraltar by Anglo-Dutch forces the previous month


Who would’ve thought that an 18th century war could be re-fought in the 21st century?

Spanish opposition to the Brexit plan being negotiated by UK Prime Minster Theresa May with the European Union tells us something very important. There’s a reason to cherish (and shore up) international arrangements such as the union of Europe.

When countries unite to extend trade and cultural relationships, past politics starts to recede, powerful new linkages are forged and there is greater investment in human development.

But when those links are sought to be curtailed (Brexit, for example) old rivalries and past hostilities big and small return.

So, to Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory, captured in 1704 by Anglo-Dutch forces. That was during the War of the Spanish Succession. on behalf of the Habsburg claim to the Spanish throne. The territory was ceded to Great Britain. Imagine talking about the War of Spanish Succession in the 21st century, the tussle between the Hapsburgs and the Bourbons to succeed Spain’s childless Charles II!

Look at how much is undone when we start to unpick international agreements that work towards an ideal — peace, prosperity, goodwill.

Originally published at on November 23, 2018.

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Sign up for free email updates on email me at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store