Spain’s Guardia Civil challenged Gibraltar waters on 47 occasions in eight months
Guardia Civil vessels escorted Spanish fishing boats into Gibraltar territorial waters on 47 occasions during the first eight months of the year, according to the British Government. The information was revealed in a response to questions in the House of Lords, in which Britain also reaffirmed its position on sovereignty.
It also called on “all parties” to show restraint and seek dialogue to resolve the fishing dispute. “Spanish agencies have no jurisdiction in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters,” said Conservative peer Viscount Younger of Leckie.
“The Royal Navy challenges all unlawful maritime incursions by the Guardia Civil and we make formal diplomatic protests about all such incursions to the Spanish Government.”
“In our protests we make it clear that such incursions are an unacceptable violation of British sovereignty.”
Lord Leckie was responding to questions from the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Chidgey, who was among the British parliamentarians who attended Gibraltar’s National Day celebrations last month.
Lord Chidgey tabled four parliamentary questions in the House of Lords after his return to the UK, all of which sought information relating to the fishing dispute.
Lord Leckie revealed that Giles Paxman, Britain’s ambassador to Madrid, had been summoned to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs last March, when the fishing row first flared up. Although Mr Paxman discusses Gibraltar-related issues during the course of routine contacts with the Spanish government, this was the first time since 2010 that he had been called to a meeting specifically over a Gibraltar matter.
Lord Leckie said Britain had never called the Spanish ambassador to complain about illegal fishing by Spanish vessels. He said there had been no incidents involving Spanish fishing boats prior to this year.
“Before 2012 limited fishing by Spanish vessels took place, in contravention of Gibraltar law, under an informal agreement between the previous Chief Minister of Gibraltar and local Spanish fishermen,” Lord Leckie said. “The position of the new Government of Gibraltar is that application of the law should be equal for everyone”.
Lord Leckie said that British Foreign Minister William Hague had discussed the fishing dispute with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, when the two met in London last May.
“They agreed their joint support for a local solution to the fishing dispute,” he said.
“This remains our position and we encourage all parties to show restraint and engage in dialogue to find a way forward.”
Lord Chidgey also asked whether the British Government intended to bolster the assets of the Royal Navy to monitor and ‘repress’ illegal activity in British waters around Gibraltar. He received a response from Lord Astor of Hever, the Conservative peer who is parliamentary under secretary of state for defence.
“The Royal Navy in Gibraltar currently has sufficient assets to challenge unlawful incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters by Spanish state vessels,” Lord Astor said. “We continually monitor the situation and routinely adjust our force posture and resources as appropriate.