A group of Tory MPs have warned the Secretary General of Nato that Spain’s behaviour towards Gibraltar is a threat to British security could lead to a “serious” incident at sea.
The MPs have written to the head of Nato expressing concern over 210 “unlawful incursions” of Spanish state vessels into British Gibraltarian waters.
They add that Spain’s behavior as a Nato ally is becoming “increasingly unreliable”.
A fisherman holds a Spanish flag during a protest in the bay of Algeciras, near the Rock of Gibraltar CREDIT: AFP/GETTY IMAGES/MARCOS MORENO
The small peninsula off the south coast of Spain, a British Overseas Territory since 1713 and known to its 30,000 residents as “the Rock”, remains a major source of diplomatic tensions.
The Foreign Office have described Spain’s actions as “provocative” and the government has called the Spanish Ambassador 5 times since 2011 to express concerns over border delays and incursions.
The MPs write that Spain’s refusal to allow US Naval ships to bunker in Gibraltar and then dock at Spanish ports “is to the detriment of Western security”.
In their letter they said: “We are personally fearful that these incursions will eventually result in a serious incident at sea with collisions and a danger of serious injury.
“The fact that Spain impedes the free movement of Nato forces between Gibraltar and Spain is to the detriment of Western Security, for example not allowing US Naval ships to bunker in Gibraltar and then dock at Spanish ports.”
They also argue the Spanish Governments decision not to give permission for Royal Air Force aircraft to overfly Spanish airspace on their way to and from Gibraltar adds an estimated cost to each flight of £5,000 to £10,000.
The British nuclear submarine HMS Tireless approaches the port of Gibraltar
“It seems to us that Spain’s behavior as a Nato Ally is becoming increasingly unreliable,” they write.
“The Spanish Government allows the refueling of Russian warships in the Spanish enclave of Ceutra at a time when Russia has invaded the Ukraine and is aggressively testing Natos reactions.
“Yet the Spanish Foreign Minister makes ongoing verbal threats against Gibraltar.”
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It comes just a month after Spain proposed sharing sovereignty with Gibraltar after Britain voted to leave the European Union, saying this could be a prelude to bringing the British overseas territory back under its control.
The majority of those living in Gibraltar are British citizens with British passports, although thousands of Spaniards cross from mainland Spain to work on the peninsula every day.
Jack Lopresti MP, Chair for the APPG for Gibraltar and a member of the Parliamentary Nato Assembly, said: “I am sure that Spain’s ongoing war of attrition against Gibraltar, including the foolish and dangerous games that its security forces play by entering British Gibraltarian territorial waters and airspace without permission, is deliberately provocative and I fear that one day it could result in a terrible and tragic accident.”