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Pushin and Shovin in Gibraltar

The latest shenanigans in Gibraltar have resulted in yet another strongly worded diplomatic protest that the government of Spain will give yet another stiff ignoring.

They are pushing the boundaries and escalating the petty harassment and the very professional and restrained countermeasures employed by the Royal Navy, Gibraltar Defence Police and Royal Gibraltar Police combined with FCO ‘limp wristedness’ are not deterring on a wider scale.

The video below from a few months ago shows these skills off to great effect.

There have been calls for a greater Royal Navy presence as well as Tomahawk strikes and 5 rounds rapid fire but as soon as we escalate in military terms it could get ugly very quickly which would serve no one.

We might draw some parallels with the Cod Wars in the 1970’s

Controlled aggression combined with constraint, seamanship and moral authority.

The difference between the seventies and today is that the Royal Navy simply cannot afford to be putting scarce frigates and destroyers into a barging match and because of the size difference it would easily be portrayed as Royal Navy bullying.

We have to tread very carefully, restraint and maintenance of the moral high ground, are essential.

Instead of sending a Type 45 Destroyer or Type 23 Frigate on an intermittent basis or when passing, how about buying or leasing two or three modern harbour tugs?

They are powerful, have amazing manoeuvrability and can be equipped with remote control high pressure water monitors. Top speed would be lower than the existing small craft but these would not go away, instead, the tugs would join in the struggle. It would simply be a case of expanding the Serco Marine Services contract, they already have the tugs in fact, but I guess they are busy (including at Gibraltar)

Damen Serco vessels
Damen Serco vessels

This is not an idea about sinking the Spanish Armada, simply providing a bit of extra muscle and an imposing physical presence.

A bit like a bouncer in a nightclub.



I was reminded that the original idea came from a TD commenter. After a search of 323 comments that contain the word ‘tug’ it seems it came from ‘Engineer Tom’ a few months ago.

Sorry about that

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69 Responses

  1. Time for the anchor box and tether of an old, WWII era, ASW mine to be ‘found’ near the sunken hull of the Armada Espanola ship which strayed too far into Gibraltar’s business.

    “The Foreign Office regrets deeply that this dire legacy of the great battles of WWII has tragically come forward to the present day to cause this horrific loss of life. Submerged anti submarine mines, suspended dozens of feet below the maximum draught level of surface vessels, were heavily sewn at the entrance of the Mediterranean to minimize intrusion by Kriegsmarine U-Boats attempting to disrupt critical wartime shipping transiting from the Britain’s overseas colonies through the Suez Canal to our embattled Islands.

    Many thousands were laid during the course of that 6 year campaign and while all possible effort was expended at the cessation of hostilities in 1945 as part of a sweep clear program to recover these menacing threats, some have undoubtedly been missed.

    It has been speculated that recent storm activity, along with high seasonal tidal currents, may have snapped one of the mine’s tethers, thereby allowing it to rise to the surface where it’s collision with the Spanish warship in Gibraltar exclusive economic zone waters became inevitable.

    The deadly charge blew the small patrol craft in half, resulting in the unfortunate loss of all onboard.

    There will likely continue to be a threat posed from these legacy weapons for many decades to come as this is still a dangerous part of the world and so all due warning must be given to allied and commercial craft entering this area until such time as Mine Counter Measures vessels may once again properly clear all channels around the island and declare them safe.

    Spain is, of course, a valuable NATO partner and we extend our deepest condolences to the families of her lost sailors. It was a terrible, terrible, tragedy that should not be repeated.”

  2. “We might draw some parallels with the Cod Wars in the 1970′s”

    We lost the Cod War.
    Though it was cool seeing the RN go very old school, with the ramming…

    Tugs? A very good idea TD – I agree, far more use than any OPV/Warship, though it would have to be RN/Police crewed, a civilian crew should not tolerate being put in danger/harassed like the RN/RGP are getting.

  3. The problem in my view is that the government is not showing any backbone in their dealings on this. Spain are doing this only because they know the will get away with it and score cheap political points at home.

    I think the tug idea is a simple way to reasonably push back, but they should be crewed either by Gibraltar Police or the RN. Also, alongside water cannons perhaps the addition of other non lethal sound / electromagnetic / laser weapons could help enforce the point.

    Also, perhaps kicking Scotland out of the union and supporting their membership of the EU would cause them bigger problems at home with their regions so they don’t care anymore.

    If all that fails, then turn the whole area into a RN gunnery practice range :)

  4. “Any Spanish fishing boats found in Gibraltar waters will be commandeered and fined 1000 EUR. If payment is not met within 48 hours the boats will be scuttled”

    Might as well make some money from the pillocks.

    TD, your “tug” idea is also very, very good.

  5. I like M&S’ idea, however, I suggest that the “accident” is caused by the warhead of an abandoned Italian human torpedo- poetic justice

  6. @Simon: the Common Fisheries Policy allows those Spanish boats there. We can’t chuck them out. Now, the CFP is a pile of crap we should never have signed up to, but….

    Why don’t we show there is a price to pay? Once we have the forces there, expand Gibraltarian territorial waters from the current 3nm to the standard 12nm. We only appear to have not done so in a futile attempt to curry favour with the Spanish, but since they are being a pain in the arse, fuck ’em :-)

    And while we are at it, chuck some more concrete onto the seabed!

  7. The tugs idea is simple and effective- you could also go down the political route. There is an argument that says that if the Guardia Civile vessels are armed, it’s potentially an act of war, when they enter Gibraltean waters, without permission. But that really requires a more robust approach from our Foreign Office.

    Personally, I would give the Gibraltar Regiment a maritime component- even if it’s crewed with seconded RN personnel. That would then effectively be a democratically elected government protecting its population and territory. Remove us from the equation and it becomes a plucky little nation being oppressed by their nasty neighbours. Rather than at the moment, a old, faded, colonial power hanging on to the last vestiges of empire.

    We know the reality, of course, that Gibraltar is a UK overseas territory, which basically means an independently governed territory, in the same way that the Isle of Man is.

    Mind you, if we gave them seats in parliament, they then would be British territory in the same way that Croydon is.

  8. @wf Gibraltar although part of the EU is not part of the agricultural policy and the fishing agreements do not apply to British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. (BGTW) The problem is that Spain deny that these exist, despite signing the various UN conventions culminating in UNCLOS(82) Being seen to be tough with little Gibraltar is a distraction from the mess the Spanish economy is in under the Partido Popular and the endemic top-down corruption which is the root cause of their economic problems.

  9. I liked the idea of a tug the first time it was suggested here.

    Can’t for the life of me remember who it was who came up with the idea.

  10. One of Spain’s largest money makers is selling fruit and veg to the UK. Stop buying it.

    In the spirit of consolidation of national boundaries, why don’t we give some cultural aid to the Basques and Catalonians?

  11. The problem is that the Spanish hold most of the aces in the pack of cards – they’ve got a lot of space to play silly buggers in, and if they chose to do so, could make life REALLY unpleasant for the people of Gib. I know people keep demanding some kind of military presence – that works right until the point when you either use it, or blink – use it and there is a likely shooting incident, blink and its proven to be a farce.

    The solution to this isn’t military in nature – its very easy to forget that during the last blockade of the rock, the RN had a much larger presence and still did nothing. What possible difference could a frigate make now?

  12. The problem is the Spanish government would desperately love a violent confrontation to whip up nationalist public support in their current economic crisis. One of our vessels causing serious damage or even sinking one of theirs would have a serious risk of escalation. Injured or even killed Spanish personnel on Spanish TV would have dire and almost certainly uncontrollable consequences.

    Lets be under no illusion even if there had been no defence cuts Gibraltar is indefensible from the modern Spanish armed forces. If there is a serious incident Spanish tanks would be smashing through the border post and their Marines storming the beach, they would call it a “Self defence measure” to “stabilise the situation” after “aggressive moves” by “Colonial Britain”. Attached to the main land like it is there is no way that we could conduct a military response to take them back. Certainly there would be HUGE BLOW-BACK for Spain attacking a fellow EU nation but if their government is backed into the wall and the nation is driven into a fervour wanting revenge there is no way we could keep the genie in the bottle.

    I know it grates but the current posture is the most sensible way forward, verify verify verify is the watchword here. Record what they get up to, maintain a clear message about our sovereignty and politely protest when needed.

    I agree there is scope to buy better boats for the Gibraltar police to keep an eye on Guardia Civil but nothing beyond that.

    Fact is with all the shenanigans that the Spanish have been getting up to over Gibraltar in the last few years it hasn’t shifted the position one iota. Let them bluster and waste fuel it doesn’t change anything.

  13. I could have sworn that earlier in the thread I read a suggestion that we should blow up a Spanish vessel and try to pass it off as the fault of unexploded ordnance from World War 2? That of course would be incredibly fucking stupid, not least because it represents a massive over reaction and because the Spanish/NATO/UN were not born yesterday. Still, I probably just imagined it….

    Oh no, wait, I really did read that. Jesus.

    This is what happens when you forces are out numbered.
    Net cutter are an interesting idea but I thing the Spanish fishing boats in the area as small costal and not the large ocean going variety. We do not want the Spanish navy involved. They have 20 plus patrol boats and the Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera (Customs Surveillance Service) have 90 plus boats. One frigates would be of no use against all that.

  15. There are a lot of layers going on here:-

    No mention has been made of the god knows how many Brits are living in Spain itself and how many other Brits own holiday homes, 500,000? HMG has therefore to balance the interests of these people who have a vote against those in Gibraltar that don’t.

    Secondly, the current Spanish Govt is facing a revitalised Catalan independence movement. If Scotland does become independent and manages to remain in the EU then a Blueprint has been set for Catalonia and the Basque region. Castillian Spain would struggle to prevent this and unlike Scotland Catalonia is real economic power of Spain. HMG may believe that Spanish sabre rattling is less about Gibraltar and more about Catalonia.

    Spain would suffer dire financial consequences if it took Gibraltar. The list of major Spanish companies that have very significant UK subsidiaries which are all coincidentally regulated is quite staggering. Is the Spanish Govt prepared to put a risk the financial survival of the following companies for Gibraltar? Add to this the UK based financial institutions holding of Spanish Govt debt then Spain is hugely exposed financially to the UK.

    BAA Ferrovial
    O2 Telefonica
    Santander Banco Santander
    Scottish PowerIberdrola

  16. @Fedaykin
    Gib maybe indefensible, but I don’t think the Spanish Gov would risk a military escalation because they could not be certain what the UK response would be, especially if Gibraltarians were injured or even killed.
    Spanish politicians would have visions of Juan Carlos I being Spearfished or TLAMs raining down, that is off course extremely unlikely, but I remember seeing a piece on RT when a camera crew was asking people in Madrid what they thought would happen if the Gib dispute turned violent, a surprising number were genuinely concerned about a UK military response and what lengths the UK would go to in order to defend Gib, one Spaniard said “The British do what they like, they always have, they are crazy we could expect anything from them!”

  17. Chaps, I think a Spanish invasion or attack is about as likely as me appearing in the next Olympics 100m sprint but that is the point of this post really, if the Spanish go up a notch how would we go up half a notch whilst still retaining some moral authority and adherence to international law

    Anyway,if they did invade we could invoke the Lisbon Treaty and get the Germans and French on our side, and Greeks and Italians of course :)

  18. I’m afraid I can’t hear any Spanish politicians speak without thinking of Andrew Sachs.

    Why not restrict the movement of ships and boats through some sort of barrier – ISO containers, for example…

  19. The EU already see Gib as part of Spain they don’t really care about it. Joint sovereignty will come if there is a LibLab pact after May 7th 2015 whether Gibraltar wants it or not.

  20. @Waylander – I have always suspected that our reputation for being – sometimes – as mad as a box of frogs offers us an important moral advantage; much assisted amongst the Latins by the events of 1982. I think it’s the fact that rather than going in for a lot of excitable language we get a wee bit testy…and then dish out pretty serious cosh without really raising our voices…

    Not the tabloids obviously, but then those clowns mostly need locking up…which, God willing several of them are about to be.

    How’s the training going Boss? Are you fancying your chances against the chap Bolt in Scotland?

    @x – Thought I was the Gloomy one?


  21. Sea Skua had a ship launched, boxed version. Wonder if you could have a box launcher for FAGSW-H? Then mount lots of them on the Rock. Why are we not using DfID money to subsidise a fast ferry between Plymouth & Gibraltar (via Portugal)?

  22. @ admin – “Anyway,if they did invade we could invoke the Lisbon Treaty and get the Germans and French on our side, and Greeks and Italians of course”

    Personally speaking; the deterrent effect of sheer fatigue from the prospect of all that talking would make me think twice! :D

    @ – gnb – ” I think it’s the fact that rather than going in for a lot of excitable language we get a wee bit testy…and then dish out pretty serious cosh without really raising our voices…”


    Democratic nations should understand that there are consequences to their excitable gesticulations.

    Belgrano should stand as a case in point. Done for perfectly sound military reasons, understood as a poignant consequence of unrealisable military ambitions.

  23. @ GNB

    It isn’t being gloomy. I would put better odds on that happening than the UK getting a referendum on the EU.

  24. @Chris.B: If only you’d waited, you could have got more, although probably not quite enough to finish your Gibraltar bullshit bingo card. The DfID budget made an appearance , inevitably And then there were the people who imagine an invasion is on the cards. Even Sea Skuas in a box.

    @x: Was it Lord Carrington? It certainly wasn’t you, not unless you were running the MoD or the Navy in the early 70s.

  25. There’d better not be a standoff over Gibraltar. I’ll be given the cold shoulder for weeks, and the children instructed by Mrs RT to speak only Spanish to me. There will be sullen silences over dinner, which will be either boiled bone soup or Cardo (cardoons, also known as thistle), both of which are genuine Spanish dishes and utterly vile.

    I believe that the balance of trade is in Gibraltar’s favour, although I have not seen specific figures to prove that. It seems right by observation however. Border closures hurt Spain more than Gibraltar, within reason. Closure for years might be different however: much of the bulk inexpensive stuff like building bricks come across by lorry, and importing cheap bulk things by ship from far afield makes little sense long term when there are local Spanish suppliers.

    I think a smart move would be for the Government to guarantee (from the DFID budget ;) ) any financial losses to Gibraltar should the border be closed. It would tell the Spanish that mucking around pitches our national Treasury against their’s and our pockets are deeper. It also avoids any EU interference.

  26. @RT,

    I thought Lancers were trained to view their, er, weapon as the leading edge of Her Majesty’s policy? :) This might in such a case be viewed in the American phrase as “taking one for the team”, a phrase to which a semi-retired second row can surely relate….

    I do think however that GNB would be required as a debt of honour to secret ham and Stilton pies to you in the post, while using a trebuchet to lob Yorkshire Pud onto the grounds of RT Manor.

    The treasury v treasury approach gets my vote. Of course anything even more ruinous to the Spanish economy could contravene the “a dog is three meals away from being a wolf” rule. But it seems the best place to get them by the goolies all the same.

  27. @x: “Can’t for the life of me remember who it was who came up with the idea.” <– About this. Maybe I was leaping to conclusions. If so, my apologies.

  28. I know Spain would never be so stupid as to carry out military action. We would then call on our treaty with Portugal and retake Gibraltar by land through Andalusia. It would be a 145 mile dash from the border. Since we are playing a hypothetical war. How hard would Gibraltar be to take? Thoughts of a Stalingrad come to mind if the Spanish do not care about the civilian population fighting from house to house. Then cave to cave. If you had warning of the attack and had fortified the rock. You have to get across the 250 meter killing zone formed by the open airport. Even in a tank that is a long distance to cover.
    Ok this is become like fantasy fleets but hypothetical can be fun.

  29. @RT
    I can also point out that proper chedder cheese (as in caves in wookey etc) has been unaffected by the flooding, so at worst case, food parcels can be dispatched. i’m sure I can find a decent, blinding scrumpy for refreshment too. (My own personal stock exploded, so I’ll have obtain some- not as big a problem as first thought)

    @ AS

    It can all be prevented by the dispatch of a T45 and a ‘River’ armed with ‘stingray’. And of course, it’s all just another reason why we need those carriers (you forgot that Chris.B.) :))

  30. @ as,

    I’m not sure where to start. Britain has got no hope of defending Gibraltar if it was attacked (which the Spanish are too wise to do). If it was attacked, it wouldn’t be across the airport. The Spanish have landing craft and helicopters.

    Port and airport Blockade, electricity shutdown, telecoms shutdown, gas lines stopped, tourism off the menu. 2 weeks after that the Gibbos would be whining to the FCO to negotiate.

    How many rusty old cargo ships would the Spanish need to scuttle to block the Gibraltar Harbour entrance? Two, maybe 3. After that all food comes across the border, and Madrid has it’s foot on Gibraltar’s neck

  31. RT – after such a stark “of course Spain would walk over Gib” comment, I begin to wonder just how tight a grip señora RT has on your castanets…

  32. I believe EU rules stipulate that if an EU country attacks another, the aggressor will be kicked out the EU immediately and will be at war with the rest of the EU.

    Realistically, this wouldn’t be a clear cut case, so this will PROBABLY not happen – there would be a fair bit of humming and hawing and chit chat, but what would matter is the possibility and that will be of interest to the money markets.

    The impact would be on Spanish borrowing – they are still quite wobbly and only held up by EU (German) loan guarantees – if they invaded, before the EU could say or do anything, their credit rating would instantly drop to junk, their borrowing costs would explode and before you could say boo, they would be bust. They’d probably get kicked out the EU for this alone, never mind anything to do with the aggression.

    They know this – they won’t do anything so dumb.

  33. @ Chris,

    It’s a hard headed assessment, not doom-mongering. I should preface the below by saying I don’t think it is going to happen, as it is not in Spain’s strategic interests to be so idiotic, and they are not stupid. But, that said, what would happen if they did try?

    Firstly, conventional assault. Britain has around 1,000 servicemen on Gib including TA. Spain can deploy 20,000 regulars with weapons much more sophisticated than those held locally. Knowing the place from a number of visits, I’d also observe that the vital ground and key terrain are the north mole of the harbour and airfield respectively. Both of those are relatively contiguous, and both are subject only to direct counter-attack from the rest of the peninsula (the town itself) by a single canalised route past the Shell petrol station where the IRA bombers got slotted by the SAS. Control the airfield and north mole of the harbour and you control all movement into Gibraltar itself, as well as the main utilities. You then put up a fence declaring everything to the south to be a PW Camp.

    Secondly, unconventional means. Gibraltar can be effectively isolated by blocking the harbour entrance, and denial of airspace by Spanish Typhoons, or simply twatting any aircraft manoeuvring on the Tarmac with ATGW or mortar fire. There are thousand of flat balconies in La Linea with a full on view of the entirety of the airfield, less than 500m away. The Gibbo electricity comes from a diesel powered set of generators on the harbour mole, again in direct sight of La Linea and vulnerable to both direct and indirect fire. The reserves are less than a week of diesel. All telecoms pass through Spain.

    Blockade is the most challenging scenario for Gibraltar. With a population of 30,000, it might be that 60 tonnes of food and medical supplies are the minimum for subsistence existence (2 kgs daily per person). Now, how are you going to deliver that reliably? After 2 weeks to consume existing food, how does Gibraltar survive? If the Spanish were cunning, they would be offering supervised aid convoys over the runway and evacuation of anyone desiring it. Negotiations not going so well? Aid convoys stop.

  34. Suspend winter fuel payments to overseas pensioners = collapse of Spanish economy :-)

    Armed resistance would be stupid. Civil disobedience far more promising. As with those islands down south, taking is one thing, keeping quite another.

  35. A couple of bombs a day for a week in Madrid and other areas by fanatical British nationalists, and they’d be out of Gibralter just as fast. ;-)

  36. TD, I did say the Spanish are too smart to do such an idiotic thing as invade Gibraltar. I suspect there’d be a massive British reaction in the UNSC, EU etc if they did, as well as big economic levers being pulled in the City, etc. sanctions and the like.

    It’s somewhat comforting that these days the chances of 2 European nations going to war are diminishing because the consequences in a globalised world are pretty terrifying.

    So my overall opinion is that:

    In purely military terms, Gibraltar would be f**ked and the UK could do little about it IF the Spanish wanted to seize Gibraltar.


    The Spanish are not stupid, and know they’d be f**ked by the global reaction if they invaded.

    THEREFORE so long as rational heads prevail, this is all just bluster for some reason.

    What’s more interesting to me is why the bluster is going on at all. I don’t buy the line that it is all to do with diverting domestic attention. That’s too simplistic and a bit arrogant for anyone to advance that argument. The Spanish have a vibrant press and media, and all shades of political opinion cheerfully argue things about. The Government line is not just swallowed.

  37. A shot across the bow of Basque independence particularly with the Scottish independence things going on I’m sure has a part to play.

  38. The Spanish could take Gib, but that would not be the end of it by a long haul, no British Gov could let that stand and survive. Britain went to war in the Falklands for 3,000 people 8,000 miles away, so if a UK Gov just abandoned 30,000 Gibraltarians only a 1000 miles away, then they may as well throw in the towel over the Falklands and the UK’s other overseas territories as well.
    The gloves would have to come off, the UK would be the injured party, a hell of a lot of damage would nodoubt have been done to GIb, civilians and UK military personnel would have been injured and probably killed, so there is excuse enough to strike back at Spain. The Spanish military like a lot of Europe’s militaries is a paper tiger, sure the Spanish Air Force has Typhoons and F/A-18s but they don’t seem to have the enabler capabilities, no AEW aircraft and no ISTAR platforms, probably low stocks of munitions as well. The Spanish Navy obviously has no SSNs or TLAM capability, but does the air force have standoff weapons like Storm Shadow/SCALP? If not there does not seem to be anyway that Spain could strike back at the UK, if the conflict escalated to that crazy level, but the British Gov would be able to bring enormous pressure on Spain to withdraw from Gib by threatening to hit targets on the mainland, there would probably be wide spread panic in many Spanish cities at the thought of RAF air strikes or RN TLAMs. Just the threat would probably be enough, or maybe a few limited strikes on military targets. Then hint to the Spanish Gov that the (non nuclear) power stations are next! Also with SSNs lurking off the coast the Spanish Navy would probably not dare put to sea.

  39. Waylander,

    I really don’t think this would escalate to a shooting war, not that the UK would expand the set of targets to Spain. Inconceivable that we would do that.

    Now, some practical issues for your thesis.

    500,000 Brits in Spain. You think they’d be left alone?

    France, Portugal, Italy and probably Morocco would be horrified and remain strictly neutral. Now, where are you launching your air strikes from? Quite a long sortie to strike Spanish positions on Gibraltar from Coningsby far out over the Atlantic with several refuels, so the sortie rate is going to be low.

    Merchant shipping is not going to transit STROG if there’s a shooting war going on 3 miles to the north. World trade (including our own) is going to backup, and every western power is going to demand a ceasefire.

  40. @RT
    Nothing is inconceivable in a situation like that, especially with the tabloids and no doubt even sections of the “quality press” howling for the UK Gov to do something.

    The British Nationals would just have to fend for themselves, the Spanish are hardly going to use Saddam Husain’s tactics and start using them as human shields, or standby while Spanish mobs lynch British pensioners or throw them in the bull ring!
    And even if they did, it would play into the British Gov’s hands.
    Hit targets on Gib with TLAMs. Then threaten the Spanish Gov with strikes on the mainland, both TLAM and GR4/Storm Shadow.
    The UK still has a stockpile of well over 800 SS.

  41. Waylander,

    The geography makes your thesis difficult. Put a TLAM into most places on Gib and you take out an apartment block full of civilians. The port area of Algeciras is full of merchant craft and oil pumping installations, risking environmental damage. Any airborne ISTAR asset would have to fly in a localised zone south west of Gib to get a look at any potential target, so that is going to be heavily defended by Spanish Typhoons. Ditto for any SSNs wanting to conduct ISTAR operations.

    Anyway, I don’t accept your view that Britain would launch a war with Spain to recover Gibraltar, particularly if Spain seized it with very little bloodshed, as I think they could (if they were that stupid). There are far better international levers to use than TLAM, at least in this case.

  42. Can’t see the point about putting a TLAM into Gib: knock out Madrid’s power stations, seize Santander and they’ll get the message real fast.

  43. @RT
    I was responding to your point about hitting Spanish positions on Gib, but I don’t think that would be the way to go, nor would some crazy amphib assault be possible.
    The only way of getting the Spanish out of Gib, would be to frighten/intimidate them into withdrawing by threatening, and if necessary carrying out, strikes on the mainland.
    If the Spanish Gov were loopy enough to invade Gib, they are not going to just bow to political/economic pressure and pull out, anymore than the Argentinian’s would have in the Falklands. It’s highly likely that even the threat of, or limited air strikes would cause the Spanish Gov to fall, it would just be a matter of keeping up the pressure until things started to unravel in Madrid.
    However for the UK Gov to say air strikes on the mainland were completely of the table would make no sense at all, and hamstring themselves.

  44. Or… SF snurgle in, take important peoples hostages, bring them back to UK for a nice chat with some cheery MI6 staff in a concrete cell somewhere, then once looking suitably contrite, take their holiday snaps ready for Spanish Media to publish. I’m sure the concept of swapsies extends to Iberia

  45. @ All

    Sadly I am not surprised by the reaction here to my assertion that a LibLab pact government would go for joint sovereignty. -4 really? Gosh. Let’s just say I hope I am wrong………..

  46. Gibraltar Defence Police and RN Gib Squadron hold the moral high ground on this right now, and that hasn’t been achieved by ramming or attempting to put a hole in an adversary’s ship. Everything they do is in accordance with both Rules of the Road and Rules of Engagement, and this means that at the end of every standoff the Guardia Civil have failed to achieve their objective, which is to generate more hysteria. Nothing in this dispute is worth losing lives at sea over. This week’s hooha was set off by a maritime parachute training exercise. These happen frequently in Gib (weather and close proximity of Maritime Drop Zones to the airhead make it possible to generate a lot of serials in short order) and the Spanish view it as a provocation. What they really mean is that they view it, quite rightly, as a big-profile demonstration of some high-end capability and of how important Gib is to UK interests. Our response is always going to be based on how reckless and hysteria-fuelled their reactions will be. Boarding a Guardia Civil patrol craft and filling in the crew would be immensely gratifying, would please expat Daily Express readers, and would cause nothing but trouble.

  47. Trouble is, this country has a generation (if not two) who have only known political correctness and a large number swallowed it hook, line and sinker. They pretty much think what they suppose they should think: for them ‘patriotism’ = ‘racism’; ‘British overseas territory’ = ‘the vestiges of a wicked hegemony based on slavery and brutal imperialism’. Any discussion on Gibraltar and – if any were bothered at all – there would be hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth, rather than flag-waving and national fortitude.

    NB: This is not a Daily Mail style blanket statement/generalisation about ‘the youth of today’ but a mere personal observation about a type of attitude that gets my goat. In no way is it intended to denigrate those who are patriotic or those who have lain down their lives for their country.

    Some Spanish diplomat was on the Today programme a month or so ago, spitting vitriol about Gibraltar and citing the return to the Chinese of Hong Kong as a precedent – there is a difference between ownership ‘in perpetuity’ and getting to the end of a long lease.

    The other factor, with Gib and The Falklands, is the large proportion of people in the US who are Spanish-speaking or of Spanish descent: the US might not be that inclined to make much of a fuss in our favour.

    To quote Mark Twain: “I love my country ALWAYS; I love my government when they deserve it.”

  48. Bit off topic, but right now with the Ukraine, Syria, Iran I wonder if we are going to have to start arming up again. Russia could now pose a threat with regard to NATO allies (eg Poland).

  49. Re Ukraine,

    Not a country I know much about, except what’s on the news. There was an opinion piece on BBC R4 PM programme only mid week in which some eminent experts were completely wrong: they both agreed that Putin held all of the aces, and the EU and USA were caught flat-footed.

    Three days later, all has changed. I suspect we are not out of the woods yet, nor do I think the EU and USA much created the current situation. But clearly Ukrainians have given themselves control.

    Some of the protestors also do not seem to be angels – accusations of right wing thuggery.

    Tomorrow is the closing of the Sochi Olympics, and the world’s eye will move to something else. Once out of the spotlight, it is difficult to imagine Putin’s Russia sitting back and doing nothing, when its’ neighbour apparently wants to go all western.

    To borrow a northern phrase, I’m somewhat Gloomy about the immediate prospects.

  50. While I’ve no doubt that the Spanish wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of the RAF or RN, it’s Thomas Cook and Easyjet they’d REALLY be scared of upsetting. I’m sure the Greek, Portuguese etc. tourism ministers would be supportive of our cause. HMG would do more damage offering subsidised holidays on the Algarve or Crete than they ever could with TLAM.

  51. We could just build some patrol boats to donate to the Moroccans to start replicating Spanish behaviour in the waters of Melilla and Ceuta…..might help the world realise the stupendous hypocrisy of the Spanish position.

    If the Spanish really get silly then we just ship our armour over and liberate the territories for the Moroccans.

    The Canary Islands also look like maybe they should be Moroccan…..

  52. @RT – Oddly, the increasing evidence from here and there that history has not ended and that bad stuff might happen that we have no choice but to engage with makes me almost cheerful…albeit in a rather mournful and lugubrious way, obviously…

    Try this one for size…The Ukraine doesn’t settle down, but in fact grows increasingly fissiparous and disorderly…in response the Catholic/Polish-speaking bit get themselves organised and ask for support from Poland to keep the peace…Poland get permission from a Provisional Government drawn from the EU facing factions to do so…but not from Cossack “Volunteers” from Russia helping out the original President who is still claiming legitimacy with increasingly open assistance from Putin…

    Shots are fired with both Polish and Cossack casualties, with clear differences of opinion as to who started it, and if the dead Polish Border Guards were actually in Poland or not…the Poles start to move heavier forces to the Border, quoting their right to self defence at NATO HQ…


  53. I thought the biggest danger at the moment was that the Ukraine will split and we would have something similar to the Balkans to deal with.Both Russia and the West with a dog in the fight.

  54. @DavidNiven,

    Yup. Kosovo on steroids but with competent Russian leadership (evil, more so than many a Brezhnev, but competent) and the locals doing the actual heavy lifting at each other a la BiH.


    Masterful sum-up from Middle England.


    Not that likely but you’ve written an airport novel worthy of a young Gerald Seymour (ie plausible) and described accurately the pants-crapping terror abroad in Western capitals at the moment.

    I would like to walk up to George Osborne’s gob and say “remember how heavy armour and aircraft carriers and air superiority fighters were relics of the Cold War and we really needed light swift levies to defend the interests of neo-feudal financial sectors? Up yer jacksey with the horse that rode you in, Georgie Porgie. Welcome back to history.”

    On a broader and slightly self congratulatory front I’ve been saying in occasional forays for several years that the death of heavy-kit civil wars, organised (even when hybrid) opponents and state v state were varsity overrated. Ukraine now, an Algerian civil war when their economy goes south again, a Greco-Turko-Cypriot conflagration two debt crises down the line, revanchist Venezuelan threats to the Antilles, by the 2020s perhaps even Russian efforts to annex Finnmark and Svalbard to control the “new Suez” of an Arctic passage once a fiscally downsized and Pacific-orientated US, like honey badger, doesn’t care to let Trident fly for the sake of European tundra. These are all possibilities that, like Mali and the CAR, should excite military minds a great deal more than our latest last war.

  55. Forgot to add any collapse, at all, in Moroccan stability where Spain v Morocco with Gib in the crossfire….

  56. Ukraine is complex and you need to understand central and east European history to realise how much. Of most current relevance its useful to remember that in 1945 borders moved westwards, Poland moved into a large chunk of Germany, and Ukraine and Bylorussia moved into a large chunk of what was Poland (which had been split in three (mostly Russian) by the Treaty of Vienna – Poland had foolishly allied with Napolean and wasn’t re-created until 1918). Then you had the large scale recruitment of Ukrainians into the German Army, their forced repatriation (along with the better known Cossacks) from being PWs and the post WW2 insurrection quashed by several divisions of NKVD troops. All this means the west Ukrainians want to have as little to do with Russia as possible and see themselves as Europeans. Of friend Mr P finds this intolerable, not least because his ‘regiment’ sorted it out 50-60 yrs ago and he wants to be the man who got them back into the fold.

  57. Anyone think that Spanish Tiffies will be shooting down BA airlifts to Gib are deluded. Anyone seriously thinking that RyanAir would not see an airlift opportunity to support the Gibbies are smoking summunck….

  58. Spanish don’t need to shoot anything down to close Gibraltar. Isnt the ATC for the region done out of Spain?
    Their controllers could refuse to control planes going into Gib. They could also start dicking around in their Typhoons in the pattern but outside the 3 miles, or just find some tall boats to park at the end of the runway.
    They wont have to do much to stop insurers covering civilian flights in.

  59. @ ChrisM

    Only onroute. Terminal, Approach and Local Area, is still handled by the airfield.
    You do have the rather odd problem of military traffic, and that does include flights by civvie operators, on behalf of the MOD, or the Gibraltar Government, being routed well out to the west, and being handled by Brest Oceanic until the handover to Gib Approach. Even the nominated diversion has to avoid the Iberian peninsula. We always designated Tangier and Casablanca. For other flights we designated Malaga, Jerez, or Seville.

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