UK to “deter and challenge” any incursion by Spanish state vessels into Gibraltar waters
Britain’s Armed Forces Minister, Nick Harvey, said the Royal Navy would “deter and challenge” any incursion by Spanish state vessels into British waters around the Rock. Minister Harvey was responding to questions from Labour MPs in the House of Commons about recent incursions by Spanish Guardia Civil vessels.
The answers were released on Monday, coinciding with the arrival in Gibraltar of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones, the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Prince Edward on Tuesday visited the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar Squadron and inspected the unit’s patrol boats as part of the Royal visit, which has angered the Spanish government.
The Gibraltar Squadron is tasked with protecting the territorial integrity of British waters. Britain claims three miles of territorial sea around Gibraltar but Spain says those waters are Spanish.
“The Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron will continue to deter and challenge all marine incursions which threaten the integrity of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters,” Mr Harvey said. “In line with standing orders, appropriate warnings have been issued in response to each recent incursion.”
“The Ministry of Defence remains absolutely committed to ensuring the defence and security of Gibraltar, its residents and British Gibraltar Territorial Waters” underlined Minister Harvey.
Harvey’s answers in the Commons follow the tense stand-offs at sea after Guardia Civil vessels escorted Spanish fishermen into Gibraltar waters. On each of those occasions the Spanish vessels were ordered out by the Royal Navy and protests were made through diplomatic channels.
However following a meeting in London between British Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo, things have calmed and focused attention on a local solution and the work of a technical group comprised of Gibraltar Government officials, environmental experts and representatives of the Spanish fishermen.
Since then, the fishermen have stayed away from British waters while the talks continue.
Mr Harvey revealed that at the height of the fishing dispute when incursions became a nightly occurrence, Guardia Civil vessels were warned to leave British Gibraltar Territorial Waters on nine separate occasions within the space of a week.