When I owned a British Registered Ship (Part 1 registration) the ship's passport or Certificate of British Registry was an impressive thing; a long blue cloth cover embossed with the royal arms containing a large fold-out sheet of an obsolete size of sea-resistant high-rag thick paper - Demy, Double Post or even Elephant, perhaps - whereon were detailed the vessel and most importantly the ownership of each of the sixty-fourths into which British law divided ship ownership. I was stated, as the ship's fifth owner, to hold sixty-four sixty-fourths of her property. I could therefore wear a Red Ensign and salute our warships. In those days Johnny Foreigner wasn't allowed to own a British Registered ship.
Then of course came the bloody EU and Factortame. This was a court case brought by some rich Spanish fishing boat owners who declared that the requirement of the 1988 Merchant Shipping Act that 75% of British registered ship owners (48/64ths) had to be of British nationality was contrary to the Treaty of Rome and that Spaniards should have the right to wholly own Red Duster ships. They won.
This means that not only can Spanish ships fish our waters under their own quota, they can also, through buying British ships and the quota that goes with them, take our fish using British registered ships. And there are an awful lot of Spanish fishermen, trawler owners, shore-side secondaries and Spanish government tax euros currently coming from Britain's 200 mile exclusive economic zone, under both their own and our flag. The blow to their income and commerce from being excluded in two years time will be immense - if that is what happens - and Spain will scream in agony.
Hence Gibraltar. Now I've no idea whether we can reverse Factortame in two years - Richard North is your man for that sort of knowledge - or how we'll exit the Common Fisheries Policy, but Spain is very rattled.
There's a deal to be done, but Gib's comfort will cost us fish.