Sunday, May 31, 2009

Britain should show more resolve in defence of Gibraltar territorial waters

Three months ago I complained about the lack of support for Gibraltar in the British press over Spain's relentless bullying of Gibraltar.

Not that the press has given us much support since, but today I see, the Mail Online (who else) is having a bit of a go... talking about what they term as the Gibraltar ambush: Spain grabs miles of British waters to carry out 'environmental protection;.

While this 'news' broke at least three months ago, (I blogged about it at the time: Gibraltar territorial waters and sovereignty once more under threat from Spanish bullying) it's good to see that at least one British newspaper has finally decided to say something about this!

Before anyone has a go at me telling me that there have been other reports in the British press recently about the recent infringements by Spain of Gibraltar's territorial waters... I am aware of those reports. But those reports have simply mentioned the incidents of Spain's transgressions into our waters... some in rather 'gung ho' and alarmist fashion. None (to my knowledge) have looked at the issue on the way Spain has managed to trick the EU into granting Spain legal rights over our British sovereign territorial waters surrounding Gibraltar. Simon McGee, writing in today's Mail Online highlights the issue rather well. Thank you Simon... and 'middle England'!

He even tried to contact the European Commission and the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry for comment but... surprise surprise... the EU Commission declined to comment and the Spanish government failed to respond to phone calls.

There have been reports in the British press over the last couple of weeks, that Britain was sending some warships out to Gibraltar, following the recent incidents. I haven't been able to corroborate or confirm the veracity of these reports from any reliable source (other than the UK press) but I can tell you... NO new warships have arrived in Gibraltar... as yet.

There is however, the substantial presence of the British nuclear submarine HMS Trenchant which was observed in the Bay of Gibraltar last Thursday. However, the submarine was only there to carry out a crew transfer and was on its way elsewhere. It was met by units from the Gibraltar Squadron, who in addition to providing an escort also ferried the transferring crew rom submarine to shore. It is reported that the transfer was carried out in the bay "because of poor weather conditions" in the Strait of Gibraltar. In any event, whatever it is up to, a nuclear powered submarine, whilst powerful in any regard, is very ill equipped and totally unsuitable to deal with the types of incidents that have occurred lately.

The brief visit by the nuclear powered submarine drew the usual and predictable response from 'Blanca Luz', Spain's Popular Party opposition MP for Cádiz, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, who repeated (as he does parrot fashion) his concerns about "safety" and urged the Spanish government to "take a tougher line"... bloody cheek! But speaking of Governments taking a 'tougher line', I agree... but it's Britain that should be taking a much tougher line!

As far as I know, the defence of our territorial waters, in this important issue and with the worrying atmosphere of rising tensions, is still up to the two units, the small patrol boats HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar, belonging to the Royal Navy's Gibraltar Squadron.

In the light of a recent Defence Management report, which argues that support in Westminster for the Royal Navy has become so bad that the service now has a mere nine ships allocated to protecting Britain's territorial waters. The Royal Navy cuts mean less maritime security for the UK, so this does not augur very well for the Royal Navy's capabilities and the defence of Gibraltar's own British sovereign territorial waters!

As I've said before... so far, all concerned have been able to show restraint in these incidents, both on the Spanish Guardia Civil maritime patrol boats and on the British side, by the Royal Navy and the Gibraltar Police's maritime units... but I can see how these confrontations could easily go awry. Let's hope further escalations can be avoided and the matter can be resolved soon... before someone is hurt and we are having to deal with a much more serious 'international incident'!

I am a little comforted that both the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Ministry of Defence in Gibraltar are trying to ensure that their personnel know exactly what they have to do if faced with yet another Spanish incursion. In the wake of these recent tense incidents at sea off Gibraltar, police and military planners have reportedly revisited the operating procedures for marine crews patrolling British waters and that is comforting to know but one would expect them to be checking and reviewing their procedures.

More importantly... if further confrontations are to be avoided, I for one would feel far more comfortable if the British government were to send more substantial naval units to Gibraltar and, if nothing else, show Spain in no uncertain terms, that unlike in the lead up to the Falklands conflict with the pulling out of a substantial naval presence then, in this instance Britain is resolved to defend its territorial waters vigorously, by stationing one or two frigates or destroyers, at least, in Gibraltar now! Trouble is... does the UK have the will or the capability?

Where is Drake when you need him?

"So please your Majesty, to singe the King of Spain's beard; it has grown somewhat too long."


Navy Lookout said...

Well said. Unfortunately due to the hatchet job done on the Royal Navy by the Blair /Brown government they would be hard pressed to provide any permanent presence around Gib (other than the usual units in transit and the 2 speedboats of the Gib Squadron). Assuming of course there is the political will to stand up to the Spanish which is unlikely in the current chaos consuming Westminster.

Cybernest said...

Navy Lookout...

That's exactly what I'm worrying about... even if they do have the resolve in Westminster... they don't seem to have the capability on naval resources... so looks like we'll just have to be comforted by those 'speedboats' as you amusingly call them!!

Thanks for your comment. You have an excellent Blog and website btw... and for obvious reasons... I very much support your campaign! For less obvious reasons... I'm ex RN myself... so I would support you for that reason too!! :)


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid this isn't related to the original post but I wanted to ask if it is OK for me to add your blog to my blogroll. I'm a Gibraltarian living in Holland and I'm always glad to see fellow llanitos in the blogosphere.

Cybernest said...

Hi kellyinnl

Of course you can.. add away!

I too am delighted to see fellow Llanitos and Llanitas in the blogosphere!

Lovely to hear from you and I shall add your blog to my blogs list too!

Btw... next time you have the urge to talk to me off topic, feel free to do so on the link at the top of the right sidebar... under 'Contact Me'... just for your comfort... but I am delighted to hear from you and others... however you wish to do so!

Venga... un saludo! :)