Time for Spain to BACK OFF
Time for Britain to BACK UP Gibraltar
Another week, another incursion. It seems now that barely a week goes by without another story of Spanish violations of British-Gibraltarian sovereignty. This week, however, tensions were severely escalated, when the crew of a Spanish customs ship actually fired shots and threw bricks at a British-Gibraltarian fishing cruise.
These incidents have become so common over the past year that fewer and fewer people in Britain pay any attention to them. But imagine if the French coastguard began ramming British ships coming out of the port of Dover – the British people would rightly be outraged! We cannot allow Spain to continue to ignore international law and bully Gibraltar. It sets a bad precedent for maritime borders everywhere, and is increasingly making the sea-faring citizens of Gibraltar feel unsafe in their own territory.
The reality that Madrid must accept, is that Gibraltar is firmly British. It has been so for hundreds of years, and the people have no desire to become a part of Spain. In 2002, they roundly rejected the prospect of sharing their sovereignty with Spain, demonstrating to the world that they aren’t Spanish, and don’t want to be.
Successive Spanish governments, however, have made recovering the sovereignty of Gibraltar a stated aim. Indeed, Spain’s Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel García-Margallo, stated recently that hostile Spanish policies towards Gibraltar were ‘bearing fruit’. Spain is continuously pushing the issue of Gibraltarian sovereignty at international conferences, and even has a team in its Ministry of Foreign Affairs dedicated to preparing briefings, analysis, and proposals on regaining control of the Territory.
The territorial incursions we have seen in recent weeks are part of a concentrated policy by Spain to act is if Gibraltar is already theirs. Their hope is that the Gibraltarian people will eventually give up the fight and accept Spanish sovereignty as the de facto state of affairs. We simply cannot allow that to happen, and Her Majesty’s Government must stand up to Madrid.
The British response to incursions into Gibraltarian waters over the past year or so has been weak. We must accept that Spain will not let up in its determination to take control of Gibraltar, and so we cannot continue to respond to incursions into Gibraltarian waters with the same old diplomatic platitudes. Britain must make a show of force – we can only tell Spain what to do from a position of strength. The Royal Navy presence in Gibraltar must be beefed up, and we must demonstrate to the Spanish that their continued disregard for international law will not be tolerated.