How do you recognise a third or fourth rate country? Well, perhaps claiming territory where the inhabitants want nothing to do with you is one clue. Things seem to have gone quiet over Gibraltar and Spain’s outrageous claims of sovereignty. If proximity was good grounds for annexing territory, I guess Canada would have seized St. Pierre and Miquelon years ago. The islands lie just off Canada’s Atlantic shores but remain thoroughly French. And everyone seems happy to leave it at that. But if the Spanish, or their sad cousins in Argentina, were involved, I guess things would be different. The people of Gibraltar and the Falkand Islands have both made it clear they have no desire to come under Hispanic rule. And as long as the British taxpayer is prepared to indulge them or they change their mind, then I guess they should remain out of the clutches of Hispanic imperialism. And just how good is Spain’s claim over Gibraltar? The Rock has been British for longer than it was Spanish. It was part of what is now Morocco from 711 until 1462 when it was conquered by the Spanish. It was signed over to the British in 1713. Do the maths senor! And on the subject of North Africa; just when are the Spanish going to abandon their remaining enclaves on the Moroccan coast, the so-called plazas de soberanía? Claiming places where you’re not wanted is to enter some very murky waters. And of course, the wishes of the local people are not always paramount. Military and political reality meant that although Hong Kong island was ceded by treaty to Britain forever in 1842 when the 99-year lease on New Territories on the Chinese mainland expired in 1997, the whole caboodle and its worried population was turned over to the People’s Republic.