Julian Bray writes: The news that the Spanish Government has decided to 'get tough' on the whole question of the sovereign ownership of Gibraltar is nothing new to readers of this news blog. Shades of the Falklands War, and an impending Spanish election campaign, have placed Gibraltar in the spotlight as a convenient diversion, from mounting political problems, corruption investigations, and a 50% unemployment rate on the Spanish mainland.
The construction of a fisheries protection reef, was in reality only commissioned as a result of regular incursions by large Spanish inshore fishing boats, and smaller 'private' craft regularly testing 'the Gib maritine defences' by frustrating the safe arrival and departure of international cruise ships, many American owned. Protecting fisheries are in fact a secondary consideration but don't tell anyone, we told you!
Millions of hours of cameraphone holiday footage contains video of the well drilled fully armed 'British Police' Gib marine defence sqaud equipped with high speed zodiacs, who see off all who pose any kind of threat to those lawfully within Gibraltarian waters. Woe betide any craft who try and impede the cruise ships! During my onboard lecture tours with all the major cruise lines, I have landed at Gibratar countless times, to witness all
kinds of maritime operations.
Gibraltar was at one time a mandatory first port of call, for duty free shopping, but not so important these days, as the cruise lines on their new generation of floating self-contained destination mega ships, developed their onboard shopping malls and actually now undercut Gibraltar mainland retail prices.
It was clear that Gibraltar was in fact becoming a liability as shore excursions needing to cross the border from Gibraltar into Spain, were increasingly unreliable due to 'administrative' delays and in terms of ensuring all coaches, private hire buses and taxis were back alongside for a 6pm or earlier departure. It is also a problem where some ships wee replenishing supplies from Gibraltar but increasingly Vigo (Northern Spain) and Lisbon (Portugal) have taken over this role.
The shortsightedness of the Spanish Authorities is quite astonishing as they have overlooked that on any one day some 7,000 international cruise ship passengers will board Spanish owned coaches and head for the Spanish mainland for day trips. Where they will spend substantial funds at various tourist centres including Santiago de Compostela, the location of the recent railcrash.
As the British Government has reserved the right to retaliate against Spanish owned enterprises, we could well see the bizarre situation developing whereby Spanish owned British Airways flights are surcharged or denied landing at British Airports albeit that the UK main airports are these days Spanish owned. In any event frustrating dividend payments to their Spanish masters, could well be on the cards, and cause the Spaniards even greater economic problems - and very quickly.
This is the official UK reaction to the current impasse:
Following comments reported today, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London "has reasserted its ties" with Gibraltar.
A Foreign Office spokesman said:
The Prime Minister has made clear that the UK government will meet its constitutional commitments to the people of Gibraltar and will not compromise on sovereignty. Our differences with Spain on Gibraltar will be resolved by political means through our relationship as EU partners, not through disproportionate measures such as the border delays we have seen over the past week. We have many common interests with Spain and wish to continue to have a strong relationship at every level with the Government of Spain.
The Cordoba Agreement was an example of our relationship with Spain working effectively, with the Agreement benefiting many in the Campo area of Spain. We are continuing to abide by our obligations under the Agreement and we look to the Government in Spain to do likewise. In the meantime, we will be seeking an explanation from Spain following reports that the Spanish government might target Gibraltar with further measures.
On Friday 2 August the Spanish Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office in relation to delays at the Gibraltar border
This is the post from last October :-