Wednesday, May 22nd 2013 - 23:28 UTC

Gibraltar: UK has no plans ‘at present’ to extend the 12 miles territorial waters around Gibraltar

The British Government has no plans “at present” to extend British territorial waters around the Rock but does not rule out doing so in the future. The position was revealed in a statement by David Lidington, Britain’s Minister for Europe, in response to a question in the House of Commons.

Lidington: 176 “unlawful incursions” by Spanish state vessels between November 1, 2012, and April 30, 2013

“We have no plans at present to extend British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to 12 nautical miles but we retain the option to do so, as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS,” Mr Lidington said.

Britain claims three miles of territorial sea around the Rock but was asked by the Gibraltar Government last December to extend it to 12 miles under the UN convention.

The request came against the background of tension over persistent Guardia Civil incursions and Spanish efforts to designate an EU nature site in British waters. The Gibraltar Government has held meetings with UK officials from across Whitehall departments to consider the request.

The officials are looking at numerous different aspects of what an extension to the territorial sea would entail, not just in political but in practical terms.

This includes assessing what resources would be required to enforce jurisdiction and comply with UNCLOS responsibilities in a wider area of sea.

Mr Lidington told the Commons there had been 176 “unlawful incursions” by Spanish state vessels between November 1, 2012, and April 30, 2013. That amounts to almost one a day on average.

Asked what Britain was doing about it, Mr Lidington repeated the now standard line: the Royal Navy challenged the Guardia Civil whenever its vessels made illegal incursions into Gibraltar waters.

“We also make formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government about all such incursions,” he said and insisted that “we will continue to do all that is necessary to uphold British sovereignty over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters”.

Mr Lidington also told the Commons that the British Government would react formally to recent criticism of the UK’s response to the incursions and the fishing dispute.

The British scientist leading the study into fisheries in Gibraltar waters, Dr Chris Tydeman, Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum and author of the long-awaited fishing report commissioned by the Gibraltar Government, told a Commons select committee that Britain was failing to enforce Gibraltar’s marine nature laws for fear of upsetting Spain.

Mr Lidington said officials in his department were in regular discussion with the Gibraltar Government and supported its efforts to resolve the fishing dispute, “encouraging all parties to show restraint and cooperate with the Government of Gibraltar.”

“The UK Government has a single policy on Gibraltar, which is agreed across Whitehall Departments including the Ministry of Defence and discussed with the Governor,” he said.

“I will write to the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee about the Gibraltar-related issues raised in the oral evidence that the Committee has taken from Dr Tydeman” pledged Mr Lidington.

9 comments Feed

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1 Lord Ton (#) May 23rd, 2013 - 05:55 am Report abuse
“at present” ............ yup , says it all :-)
2 Martin Woodhead (#) May 23rd, 2013 - 09:00 am Report abuse
Javalin anti tank missiles have a range of 12 miles handy that
3 Rufus (#) May 23rd, 2013 - 10:16 am Report abuse
@2 Martin

Oddly enough, the way that territorial waters used to be calculated was just that - how far could whatever variety of coastal artillery could shoot. Spain does seem to want to go back to this system, rather than what was agreed by the convention that they ratified.
4 Conqueror (#) May 23rd, 2013 - 10:40 am Report abuse
@3 Ah yes. But, according to Spain, Gibraltar has no territorial waters because they weren't mentioned in the Treaty of Utrecht. Unfortunately, Spanish territorial waters weren't mentioned either. I wonder that a country like England, victorious on every front, couldn't see that a treaty that enabled a Spanish fleet to sit just outside the Port of Gibraltar ready to fire on anything wanting to leave, might have been a mistake. Hang on, there was no international agreement on the extent of “territorial waters” in 1713. That's why they weren't mentioned. That's why the dastardly Spanish won't go to the ICJ. Because they'd get beaten round the head with a copy of UNCLOS!
5 briton (#) May 23rd, 2013 - 12:50 pm Report abuse
The sooner the 12 mile limit comes, the better it will be ..
6 Conqueror (#) May 23rd, 2013 - 03:02 pm Report abuse
Thing is, isn't the territorial limit a domestic, internal matter? Obviously, Gibraltar needs a heavily armed naval force. Then, it can reasonably declare a 12-mile limit under UNCLOS. It can go out, warn, and then destroy, explode, sink anything Spanish. Closer to Gibraltar's shores, there should be cannon, machine and miniguns. Always a good idea to sprint up the beach, take control of a strategically-placed weapon and destroy anything Spanish.
7 briton (#) May 23rd, 2013 - 06:21 pm Report abuse
with the way the spannish just ignore law and order,

the R/N should be permanantly stationed their and inforce the limit,

then see if these cowards dare come near..
8 Conqueror (#) May 26th, 2013 - 11:44 am Report abuse
@7 Unfortunately, the RN is permanently stationed there. The Gibraltar Squadron. ”It consists of two 16 m (52 ft 6 in) Patrol launches—HMS Scimitar and her sister ship HMS Sabre—and three Pacific 24 rigid-hulled inflatable boats, manned by a team of 22 people.“ The Spanish regularly send out their ”patrol boats“ that are 68 m in length to invade BGTW. The MoD regularly states that the RN force is ”adequate”. I keep telling them that it isn't. But it's notable that if an RN vessel of any appreciable size and capability turns up, the Spanish are rarely to be seen! Instead of scrapping Type 23 frigates, they should send some to Gibraltar. Even moored, the main armament has a range in excess of 13 miles. The normal complement is 185, but a reduced complement of, say, 90 would be enough for short journeys and firing the armament. The secondary armament, 2× 30mm DS30M automated guns, 2× Miniguns and 4× General-purpose machine guns could also be manned. Would we even have to tell the Spanish that any unauthorised vessels entering BGTW might be fired on?
9 briton (#) May 26th, 2013 - 06:17 pm Report abuse
I agree with you,
We should have bigger ships and be more robust in our defence of Gibraltar,

Sometimes being friendly and peaceful to our none existent ally,
Must surely just make us look incapable of defending it.


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