Current events in Gibraltar and the continued incursions by Spanish vessels in the Rock's territorial waters were addressed in a strong piece in the Daily Telegraph by the former head of the Royal Navy, Lord Admiral West. This follows calls from British MPs last week for pressure to be brought on Spain within the context of NATO.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Lord Admiral West said the Spanish “…seem to be intent on provoking some sort of crisis. This is extraordinary behavior for a democratic European state in the twenty first century and more akin to that of a Fascist dictatorship or banana republic”.
Lord Admiral West sketched out Rock’s history in the opinion piece and made clear that the people of Gibraltar had expressed a wish to remain British.
He said the EU had been “far from helpful” to the democratic wishes of the people of Gibraltar by allowing Spain to designate a Spanish EU nature site in British waters.
The former navy chief, who also served as Parliamentary Undersecretary of State responsible for security, counter-terrorism and police in the Labor government of Gordon Brown, warned of the risk of escalation in the seas around the Rock. “There is no doubt that Spanish actions are outrageous, provocative and dangerous,” he wrote.
Lord Admiral West said the UK had made clear that it would never enter into agreement on sovereignty without agreement of the government of Gibraltar, “in other words the Gibraltarian people”, and no one can be in any doubt about their views.
“The Spanish should accept the status quo and welcome Gibraltar as another European nation, and who knows in 100 years they may want to be part of Spain?,” he wrote. “An issue of such complexity cannot be resolved at a stroke and certainly not by bullying.”
“Britain must never submit to blatant provocation and harassment” and I hope the Government is looking at options to reassure the people of Gibraltar and stabilize the situation by reinforcing our maritime presence around the Rock.”
“If force levels give an impression of lack of commitment then things are more likely to escalate.”
Admiral Lord West said he feared that the UK Government “has been burying its head in the sand and ignoring growing provocation despite warnings by a number of us, particularly Lord Richard Luce, a past Governor of Gibraltar.”
“It has to learn that, rather like appeasement, ignoring a problem seldom makes it go away,” he added.
“The EU is also surprisingly quiet on this issue and should perhaps warn one of its member states about the dangers of provocation of a close partner, concludes Lord Admiral West.