Gibraltar's territorial integrity challenged

This latest incursion has prompted calls from Gibraltar’s Chief Minister and British MPs to increase the Royal Navy presence in Gibraltar from the current two patrol vessels that make up the ‘Gibraltar Squadron’.

It is the UK’s responsibility to provide adequate military and diplomatic protection to The Rock in the face of more a more defiant and hawkish Spanish government; this latest incursion lasted over 20 hours despite repeated calls from Royal Navy personnel to withdraw.

Conservative MP Heather Wheeler said shortly after PMQs yesterday (20th November) that her constituents in are "fed up to the back teeth" with Spain's actions and would like the Royal Navy "to send some bigger boats there as soon as possible”.

Regardless, the Minister responsible, Mark Simmonds, told the House of Commons that gunboat diplomacy was not in the UK’s interest; even the most well armed warship is unlikely to deter a Spanish civilian or government vessel rightly safe in the knowledge it will not be fired upon.

The European Union have ruled their border controls legal and the repeated summoning of their Ambassador in London. Mark Simmonds has called for the EU to organise unscheduled spot-checks of the Spain-Gibraltar border so as to see how the checks affect Gibraltarians on a day-to-day basis without any prior warning being given to the Spanish authorities.

Gibraltar is, on one hand, rather lucky. It is undoubtedly the Overseas Territory with the most press attention which is forcing the Government and the House of Commons to debate and issue statements. We wait, however, to see what further actions can be taken against a country that was likened by Robert Halfon MP as being more like Iran than a European country.

As an apolitical charity, FOTBOT focuses on supporting those inside Gibraltar, and those who live outside the border who depend on Gibraltar for their jobs and livelihoods.

We support that the border between Gibraltar and Spain remains open to the free and safe passage of people and goods. We also support the notion that Gibraltar's territorial waters should be respected by Spain and provisions put in place to deter future illegal incursions.

We should not only be interested in Gibraltar or the Falklands when they are threatened by another nation but should be taking a pro-active interest in the well-being and future prosperity of all of Britain's Overseas Territories.