A few months ago, Theresa May was given a nickname I doubt is used within 100 feet of her: 'Theresa the appeaser'. The moniker came about due to May's refusal to condemn President Trump's refugee ban. It's an interesting one too, because for all her apparent appeasing, there are many instances where she prefers to do things her own way.
Which brings me to Gibraltar. British-owned since 1713, many Brits would rather the days of rationing were brought back than see Spain get their hands on the territory. Does Theresa agree with them? I'm not so sure, especially if it gets in the way of her proposals for a hard Brexit. When she realised there were growing concerns that Gibraltar could be used as leverage in Brexit negotiations, she apparently called the territory's chief minister to state that the UK remained as "steadfastly committed" to Gibraltar as ever. In public, she will no doubt have to claim this. But in private, I'm not so sure she means it as much as others in her cabinet.
Both Michael Fallon and Boris Johnson have piped up to say that under no circumstances is Spain getting Gibraltar back. But Theresa May is far more secretive than these two, and she's not afraid of angering a few people to get what she wants. She's already used EU citizens currently living in Britain as bargaining chips, creating uncertainty for millions of people who've come over here legally to study and work . She's now using British cooperation in the fight against terrorism as a bargaining chip, a move that could have been borrowed straight from the mind of her old mate Trump. It's fair to say she will use just about anything she can as a bargaining chip, so why not a little strip of land, five kilometres long and 1,000 miles from Westminster?
After all, she may have no choice. Due to some crazy smallprint, it appears Spain now has the power to shatter any hopes Britain has of getting a good deal with the EU and keeping Gibraltar. It wouldn't be unlike May to slyly give up Gibraltar in order to keep the rest of Britain happy post-Brexit. From what we've seen of her as PM so far, she appears to be the sort of astute, bigger-picture politician that will already be thinking about these things.
She's hardly going to be worried about what the good people of Gibraltar think of her. The territory is home to around 32,000 people, less than the number of students enrolled at the University of Manchester (but, funnily enough, more than the number of people who voted for her in the last election). The population of Scotland on the other hand is close to five and a half million, and even though they overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU, May isn't all that fussed about dragging them out. Yes, even if it causes another independence referendum. Current polling suggests that there's been no significant change in Scottish voting intentions in the past three years ago, but it'd still be a hell of a gamble on her part. Certainly more so than, say, annoying a few thousand Gibraltarians and getting some bad coverage from the media.
We all know she didn't mention the British territory in her Brexit letter to the EU. Maybe she forgot, maybe she didn't realise it would cause such a fuss, or maybe she isn't willing to put it ahead of the UK. From a purely economic sense, it would make little sense to throw away any potential deal with the EU because of a tiny little territory that's closer to Libya than London. I'm not saying that Theresa May will definitely sign Gibraltar away to avoid yet more Brexit hiccups, but I'm not ruling it out. It's surely more likely than war with Spain, whatever Michael Howard will tell you.