The Spanish Escalation


Andreas Nicolaides looks at the escalating row over the British territory

The last few weeks have seen what should have been a rather trivial event – the creation of an artificial reef for marine life – escalate into a full blown diplomatic row. Lying just off the coast of Spain around the western tip of the continent, the rock of Gibraltar has been a British Oversees territory since 1713. Spain claims that the placing of concrete blocks in the waters is a deliberate attempt to prevent their trawlers from fishing in the area; a right which they claim under EU law (and a scientific argument which has been roundly rejected by the experts who built it). Their reaction? A ridiculous tightening of border controls causing widespread disruption to the everyday lives of Gibraltarians and the many Spaniards who enter to work each day.

This is more than a simple escalation; Spain is using this as a deliberate Argentina style attempt to push the issue of sovereignty over ‘The Rock’ to an international audience – the noise is indeed being heard far and wide.  So why is the territory British in the first place? The answer lies within the Treaty of Utrecht 1713 whereby control was ceded to Britain in perpetuity. Despite this international treaty Spain continues to voice its claim to sovereignty over the territory in the international arena.

Although Gibraltar is self-governing in internal affairs, defence and foreign relations remain under the control of Her Majesty’s Government. To this very day it remains an important staging point for our Royal Navy, a fact which is highlighted by the current presence of HMS Westminster.  ‘The Rock’ is British and will remain so for the simple reason that like the Falkland Islanders did earlier this year, Gibraltarians’ voted overwhelmingly in a 2002 referendum to remain under British rule. This is the core element of the principle of self-determination; the people have the freedom and choice of who governs them.

The message to Spain is loud and clear: Gibraltar is British and will remain British. There will not be a ceding of sovereignty nor will the British Government and the Gibraltarians accept a concept of shared sovereignty with Spain.  Spain needs to return the status quo in border controls soon and stop imposing unjustified measures on Gibraltarians.


By Andreas Nicolaides


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