The Gibraltar GSLP/Liberal Opposition consider that a visit by any Royal Navy vessel to Gibraltar has nothing to do with any foreign country and that the Spanish Government should mind its own business on the issue.
Therefore the arrival of HMS Tireless is solely a matter for the United Kingdom and Gibraltar.
The Opposition has never objected to nuclear powered submarines calling at Gibraltar for recreational purposes. We opposed the repairs to HMS Tireless in Gibraltar a few years ago because Gibraltar was categorised as a "Z" berth, for recreational or operational visits, as opposed to an "X" berth which can accommodate such repairs. However, this time round the vessel is here for recreational purposes which are standard procedure.
The Spanish media has quoted a series of comments by the Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Defence Minister Jose Bono critical of HMS Tireless visit which cannot go by unanswered.
Mr Moratinos has said that the visit by HMS Tireless will damage Anglo-Spanish relations and the negotiating process with London over Gibraltar. The Leader of the Opposition Joe Bossano has responded to that in several interviews with the Spanish media by saying that he hopes that HMS Tireless will not just damage the process, but that it will sink it altogether. It is regrettable that Mr Moratinos has threatened action against Gibraltar and the United Kingdom because of this visit.
For his part, the Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono has said that Gibraltar is Spanish and suggested that the Royal Navy cannot behave as if Gibraltar were like Liverpool or London. He also said that HMS Tireless will not be allowed into any Spanish port after calling here. It is obvious to the Opposition that Mr Bono is new to his job and has still not mastered the details of the Gibraltar issue.
Firstly, Gibraltar is British sovereign territory like Liverpool or London and the Tireless has every right to call here on recreational visits whenever it wants to. Gibraltar is a home port for the Royal Navy who this year will be receiving the Freedom of the City.
Secondly, visit by Royal Navy vessels to Spanish ports after calling at Gibraltar have been banned since the days of General Franco.
Indeed, as is well known there are no ferry links between Gibraltar and Spain and even cruise liners have had recent difficulties sailing from here to a Spanish port.
The Opposition therefore has no difficulty in welcoming HMS Tireless to Gibraltar like it would welcome recreational or operational visits by any other Royal Navy vessel. The Royal Navy played a key role in liberating the Rock from Spanish rule three hundred years ago. Gibraltar is British and it is about time that Spain came to terms with their loss. The Opposition consider that the reaction in Spain, both at political level and at a local level, is both unwarranted and completely over the top.
Jim Watt, Gibraltar.