Sunday, 4 August 2013

Solid as the Rock? The current situation in Gibraltar and the Falklands.

Its August, the sun is shining, the politicians are on holiday and the media are desperately searching around for some kind of story to fill the news. Suddenly, the perfect story has emerged- those dreadful Spanish are doing all manner of dubious things to threaten Gibraltar and simultaneously the Falkland Islands. Is there reason for panic, or is it a case of just summer bluster in order to distract attention from other problems? The UK has always had a challenging relationship with the Spanish over Gibraltar – no matter how much the UK wishes to move the relationship forward (and in many areas it remains an extremely strong and positive relationship), this feels as if it is an issue which cannot easily be resolved.

The current situation owes much to the Spanish ratcheting up tensions after claims that Gibraltar was laying concrete blocks into local waters, in turn threatening traditional fishing grounds. It is hard to work out whether this is a genuine grievance, or merely a convenient pretext in order to gain some traction on putting pressure on the territory. Following a previous weekend where long traffic jams occurred with checks on all cars transiting the border, the Spanish are now reportedly considering imposing an entrance / exit tax of 50 Euros on anyone transiting their side of the border. While such taxes may be deeply unpleasant, they are perhaps not necessarily new (many countries impose similar entrance taxes around the world). The question is to what extent would this damage the local economy? It is worth considering that many Gibraltarians work in southern Spain, so any tax would probably make it difficult to get to work and damage the livelihood of many small businesses – perhaps appealing in a nation where youth unemployment is ever higher, but in the interim it could easily cause more long term economic damage to both the Spanish and Gibraltarian economies.

There have been increasing demands that the UK should do something, including the classic ‘send a gunboat’ line. In reality it is hard to see what such a deployment would achieve beyond having a vessel spend quite a lot of time sitting in waters which already have a small RN presence, and which would be unlikely to achieve anything tangible – it is wonderful to see a large escort ship alongside or steaming majestically at sea. It is less clear what putting such a vessel into these waters would do though beyond look terribly steely and help improve the 'donkeys flip flops' profits for the year.

The best approach to this seems to be the one being taken – namely trying to negotiate rationally and to avoid unnecessary provocations. This may not be as satisfying as summoning a countries ambassador and telling them exactly where to go, but is ultimately a lot more productive. Dealing with a culture which wears its heart openly on its sleeve on this issue is challenging. Overt threats will be seen as provocation, and ultimately the more two people face off against each other, the harder it is for one side to back down without losing significant face. Far better to be calm, measured and identify what can be done to de-escalate the situation. In the worst case scenario (which is arguably the Spanish shutting the borders), there is an economic impact on Gibraltar which would be keenly felt. The more that the UK raises the tensions, the more difficult it is to calm this all down.Far better to ride this out, represent the national interest in a measured manner and seek effective ways to make a point. From an international perspective, is it not better to be seen as the aggrieved party whose nationals are being unfairly targeted, than a equal participant in a puerile demonstration of machoism?

Linked to this is the news in one paper today that the Spanish may be selling a limited number of Mirage jets to Argentina. It is not clear whether this is actually news, or whether it’s the case that the Tabloid press have been looking on Wikipedia and turned what is a one line entry on future Spanish Mirage jet prospects into an article designed to raise tensions. In reality this site has long made the point that the Argentine Armed Forces are in a parlous state, and that they are desperately short of spares, training and operational experience. 
They've also taken various fleets of aircraft out of service in recent years, so its entirely reasonable to expect some form of replacement at some point. In the case of the Mirage jets, they entered service in 1975 and are extremely old and not necessarily front line fast jet material any longer. Acquisition of a small number of 1970s vintage jets which have been worked hard for nearly 40 years is not really going to change the balance of power in the South Atlantic. Indeed, its worth noting that right now (if you believe Wikipedia) the entire Argentine Mirage fleet is grounded anyway due to spares and safety issues. At best this acquisition may try and restore some limited capability. So, its fair to say that the Falkland Islands are hardly at risk of collapse – if the acquisition of a small number of ancient fighter aircraft materially changes the balance of power, then something has gone very badly wrong in UK defence planning circles.

In summary then, as this situation continues it is worth remembering that just because the FCO isn't making increasingly angry gestures to the Spanish publicly, and just because the Foreign Secretary hasn't challenged his opposite number to a duel, it doesn't mean that things aren't going on. At times it feels as if some people in the UK inherently dislike what can perhaps be seen as a lack of visible progress, or feel that not going onto national media and slagging off a nation means that we are now a collective nation of bed-wetting losers. In reality, if one looks at history, the crises that were averted were the ones solved quietly with at least one side acting in a rational and mature manner. Far better to occupy the moral high ground, and enjoy international support, than force yourself to share the muddy low ground. This isn't the first time that the Spanish have been challenging over the Rock, and its unlikely to be the last.Based on what the media are reporting, it is likely that this situation will continue for some time to come, but for now at least, even if there is no longer a Grand Fleet to send, or an HMS HOOD to conduct neutrality patrols, just remember that the world as we know it is not ending, even if the tabloids want you to think so

35 comments:

  1. Hear hear. I read ludicrous comments online like send HMS Daring there--excuse but Daring is a world away in the Pacific. Gibraltar has stood the test of time again and again. It's not like a financially striken Spain is going to invade.

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  2. Such a comfort to know that the European Union maintains peace and ensures grown-up and civilised behaviour between it's member-states I feel...

    A rather cynical Gloomy...

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  3. "Far better to occupy the moral high ground, and enjoy international support, than force yourself to share the muddy low ground."

    My question is, therefore, do we enjoy any international support? I certainly get the impression that very few nations or organisations support our position on either Gibraltar or the Falklands.

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    1. It is fantasy to thing this is the 1900s where there are no international or regional organisations

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  4. Regarding the potential for any additional RN deployment to Gibraltar, the forward-basing of an OPV to conribute to the wider Mediterranean security situation would be a perfectly reasonable thing to do in support of our EU partners. It would simultaneously show a greater UK commitment to sovereignty of Gibraltar, and allow a vessel local to the area to do much by way of goodwill visits around the Iberian Peninsula - a good form of 'gunboat diplomacy'?

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    1. At how much cost and what will that achieve? Will that stop the delays?

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  5. I am unclear why Spain doesn't block the borders with Portugal as well. Or is the Reconquista more permanent than the Treaty of Utrecht?

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    1. Portugal is older than Spain ;)

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  6. Sorry, I'm not sure what you mean by "Negotiate"? On what exactly? Whilst a frigate or destroyer may be overkill, a MCM or an increase of Marines is not. What Spain is doing is completely unacceptable - wishy washy diplomacy is the last thing that is needed in my view. A firm but balanced response is.

    Repulse

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    1. What exactly is gained by sending more troops to the rock to intervene in what is at heart a political dispute?

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    2. The reason is to show the will to stand up to bullying and to deter the nonsense going on. I cannot see there is a political angle at all it is umwarranted aggression plain and simple.

      Repulse

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    3. I'm sorry Repulse but the whole 'send in the Army' makes no sense here. We are witnessing a border dispute, with a nation which has a habit of resorting to loud gestures if it feels it gains the edge by doing so.
      I utterly fail to see how deploying additional troops to the rock shows will - it shows that we're trying to militarise and escalate a situation.
      how exactly will a platoon of marines stop the Spanish border checks- do you propose they invade, shoot the border guards or just point and glare menacingly?
      Perhaps you can explain exactly what you want them to DO, and more importantly what it is that they can do that cannot be done already by the garrison?

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    4. And how are these extra troops going to stand up to "bullying"? By shooting them? Where exactly does that get us?

      All over one poxy little fisherman making an arse of himself.

      You demonstrate Sir Humphrey's point perfectly.

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    5. I disagree, by increasing the UK military presence (in a small way) it shows that the UK is taking the aggression seriously. They would give additional monitoring capabilities rather than an active fighting force.

      Can you imagine any other country dealing with closure of boarders and incursions by politely complaining.

      By negotiating, it sounds like you think there is a compromise - what is it?

      Repulse

      Repulse

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    6. Repluse is idealistic. Take other military intervensions for example. The US stages wargames in South Korea--then what? North Korea can still secretly sink a warship.

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    7. An extreme parallel to make. North Korea is an unpredictable regime who worship a leader they treat as a god. Spain on the other hand, whilst it's going through turbulent times, is trying to bully the little kid (Gibraltar) to deflect issues at home.

      A show of strength / intention (however small) is as much a tool of diplomacy as is dragging the Foreign Embassidor in for a verbal kicking.

      For your North Korea example I'll raise you the show of strength over Belize in the 1970's.

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  7. Exactly. The best thing to do is employ a calm, rational approach and resolve this through diplomacy. Increasing our military presence would inflame the situation and play into the hands of the Spanish. This is a border dispute between EU and NATO members and the military has no valid role to play. Sir Humphrey is quite correct.

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  8. I completely agree with Repulse. If vessels entered British waters as frequently as the spanish do in Gib then relevant military assets would be despatched to investigate and ultimately deter.

    Moreover, as we have seen we Russian fighter/bombers probing British airspace, we send up our QRA typhoon fighters. The Spanish have skirted Gib airspace with harrier fighter jets.

    Additionally, why cant we do what other nations do, and deploy assets under any number of reasons. For example, post SDSR a infantry company could be forward positioned to Gibraltar under the token argument that they are working closely with the Royal Gibraltar Regiment as evidence of regular and reserve units working together.

    I firmly believe that prior to this tension, that a patrol vessel should be assigned to Gibraltar and form part of a British commitment to the med perhaps with the assigned minesweeper. I have always wondered why this patrol vessel couldnt be operates similar to hms clyde with gib citizens manning the vessel with perhaps a contribution from the GIb government towards operational costs.

    Sellers

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    1. if you want to stoke war, be my guest. Gunboat diplomacy is a thing of the past.

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    2. If thats the case how come whenever an act of aggression or a military exercise threaten either south korea, japan or taiwan the first thing the american do is to despatch and carrier group or bolster their military presence.

      I stress i personally would like to see an opv committed to gibraltar, prior to any tensions, perhaps with minesweeping equipment to contribute to nato standing group in the med. I dont see how something of the nature of hms clyde could be seen as an escalation. Whilst showing a commitment to nato, and maintaining a constant royal navy presence in the med.

      Sellers

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    3. Hi Sellers,
      The 'send a carrier' is actually vastly overrated and more known due to its relative rarity. While there are the odd bespoke deployments (e.g. Taiwan in the 1990s), its relatively unusual these days to see a US CVBG rock up as a symbol of displeasure - for one thing there aren't that many out there (most US CVNs are alongside right now due to budget cuts).
      The RN already has a pretty much permanent presence in the med, and there is a steady flow of RN ships into Gib both going to and from deployments. For instance if you look at this months Navy News, you'll see that a UK Task Group will be going into the Med very soon, including HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and BULWARK for EX COUGAR.
      The solution you propose of taking an OPV to do MCMV is a bit of a nightmare - there is no such design that I am aware of out there, and it would need to be bespoke. The RN already contributes to the NATO MCMV group as it is, and adding a solo ship in with two very different roles would cost a lot and not do a huge amount.
      As for deploying infantry - there is a regular component to the Gib Regt - I'd ask again, what exactly do you think needs to be done now, that cannot be done by the current on site presence?

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    4. I am aware of the cougar ex, I have just read your most recent article, and if it isnt some form of gun boat diplomacy, then why do we not avoid gib completely as to not send the wrong message?

      I believe that maintaing an opv in gib would have a beneficial role in bilateral relations in the med, would show a determination to spain that we will stand by gib. Furthermore, with n africa becoming increasingly an area of concern, arguably it would be forward thinking to have assets in gib, similar to proposal to forward base squadrons, ships and battalions in the gulf.

      What is your position on hms clyde in the s atlantic? Or the military assets committed to the falkilands? Arguably they are far safe then gib? And yet a a military presence less to what myself and repulse are proposing for gib is maintained.

      Finally, regarding the opv/mcm you are quite right, i was rather hasty in my point. I was thinking more long term as we consider options for replacing the mcm fleet, river, echo class etc, c3 or however it was previously recognised. Id like this class of ship to one day produce a opv for the falklands, gib and the caribean, helping to reduce the stress placed on the high end surface fleet

      Cheers, Sellers

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    5. Sellers
      To my own mind, gunboat diplomacy is about planting a vessel in a location to influence activity by another actor (state, non state etc). In this case, all the RN is doing is calling in - this is no different to visits which occur dozens of times per year by different RN vessels. What has happened here is that the UK media have chosen to interpret a routine port call as something more substantial than it actually is.
      OPVs are fine when you have waters you need to patrol - as has been pointed out here, there are very small waters that need patrolling and the vessels we have a re fine for the job in hand. I find it exceptionally unlikely that adding an OPV sends a message - we had for a short while a Frigate as Gib guard ship back in the 70s, and that didnt stop the Spanish closing the border - and that was at a time when Gib got regular RN refit work. It sounds harsh, but policy makers rarely plan their actions based on what an ORBAT looks like.
      The signals that say we stand by Gib are seen daily and I would ask that if the PM making clear his view of Gibs status doesn;t move the Spanish then why would an OPV do this?
      My instinct on C3 is that at some point it will see the light of day to do the sort of tasks at hand.
      As to the FI, Clyde has a clear role within the Garrison and a military task to fulfil - its not about gunboat diplomacy, but meeting the tasks placed on her, and she is a very busy little ship doing day to day work. Her presence is a force enabler for the COMBFSAI.

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  9. Have people actually seen the amount of searoom in the area of dispute? It's tiny, miniscule. The 12 mile limit around the Rock translates to about 70 square miles of territorial sea! Putting any sort of sizeable warship where the dispute actually is would near enough block the port of Algeciras, thereby escalating tension further. That's if it didn't find itself hemmed in by small boats in constrained depth of water first.

    As for OPV proper - what's the point? 70 square miles of territorial waters are perfectly well patrolled by the two P2000 we have there already. There are no offshore waters to patrol!

    If our Spanish friends continue to play silly b8ggers, a quiet word in the ear as to what the UK's policy positions might be if they need a bailout from the IMF or EU is going to be vastly more important in this particular case, than sending one of our scarce warships.

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  10. Sir H: I have answered already the question "what exactly do you think needs to be done now, that cannot be done by the current on site presence?". By sending additional forces from the UK (albeit in very small numbers) it tells the Spanish that the UK is very much involved and concerned by Spains behaviour. It is not to act as an offensive force, but demonstrates that the UK will not allow part of the UK to be bullied.

    Using the military in this way is as much diplomacy as bringing in the Ambassador for a verbal kicking.

    What noone has answered is "what are we negotiating exactly??". By negotiating or having talks about the situation we are legitimising their actions which will be perceived as a victory within Spain. All this will do is encourage future similar behaviour - much more dangerous in my view.

    Repulse

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    1. Completely agree, what exactly are we negotiating? It seems from the latest call between the two leaders that a compromise or solution is unclear. As is obvious, as we are not prepared to relinquish sovereignty and spain are unwilling to relinquish their claim.

      Arguably spain are militarising the debate by proxy by supplying the argentines with mirage fighter jets, whilst this has no real effect on the military balance in the S atlantic it is a clear political sign of support. So why can we not act in a similar way to support gibraltar? With just a small military presence.

      The spanish have no fear of escalation when they are skirting gib airspace and harrassing its waters.

      We should not be apologetic in defending what is British territory. Just as the spanish are unapologetic in their actions

      Sellers

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  11. For God's sake! Spain giving away her 1970s F-1 Mirage to Argentina just to bother the Brits! I guess any US and French aircraft delivered to Argentina after Falklands War was a diplomatic reaction against Britain. And I also wonder if Argentina has any British weaponry among her arsenal.
    Anyway, does anyone know that Gibraltar's airstrip was done over no man's land? Or that Gibraltar has no jurisdictional waters further than its harbour?
    If the UK respected Hong Kong lease treaty, why doesn't take into account what it was agreed in Utrech?

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    1. I really can't understand people who argue that Gibraltar has no Territorial waters because they weren't mentioned in the treaty of Utrecht. How was a 300 year old treaty meant to predict laws that would be introduced hundreds of years in the future. At the time, the treaty of Utrecht was signed, the concept of territorial waters didn't exist. Since then, UN treaties give all nations and territories 22km of water around their coasts. Spain signed up for this and didn't insist in some clause being added to exclude Gibraltar. They did make a declaration after signing it, but didn't insist in a clause being included in the treaty. So that argument that you often hear, just falls flat.

      Note the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea includes:
      Article 310 of the 1982 Convention specifies that "such statements and declarations cannot exclude or modify the legal effect of the provisions of the Convention" in their application.

      Now as far as I'm aware Gibraltar doesn't even claim the full 12 nautical miles that they are allowed to under that treaty.

      As for taking into account what is in the treaty of Utrecht. Couldn't it be argued that everything in that treaty is void as Spain disregarded it during their various attempts to retake Gibraltar by force over the years. Further more, they make a claim on Gibraltar. Not really keeping to the terms of a treaty that ceded Gibraltar in perpetuity, if they make a territorial claim on it now.

      It's always convenient when one side has often disregarded a treaty but then complain that the other side always needs to stick to it. Kind of similar to how Argentina complain that the UK won't enter negotiations as the 1965 UN general assembly resolution called for, but ignore that they made that invalid by breaking off negotiations and invading in 1982.

      If Spain really wanted to stick to the terms of that Treaty, then surely they should confirm that they make no claim to Gibraltar in anyway.

      Taking it further, if they really want to argue that no later treaties change the terms of the treaty of Utrecht (so the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea doesn't count), then they should return Minorca to British rule, as that was also ceded to Great Britain in the treaty of Utrecht. Now of course it was ceded back to Spain in the later treaty of Amiens, but we can't have that treaty being valid in changing the terms of Utrecht, if the law of the sea one can't.

      Now having said that I don't think we should do anything to inflame the situation, and certainly don't think Spain is selling the Mirage F-1s to upset the UK.

      Now I'm not actually being too serious in suggesting the next part, and it would include its own problems if it was attempted. But if Spain did introduce the border crossing charge and the UK wanted to respond, then they could introduce a £50 fee for leaving or entering the UK to/from Spain (starting from next year). I'm sure after a large number of the 13 million+ UK tourists who visit Spain each year, suddenly decide that they will go somewhere else next year. Then Spain will quickly change it's mind about the Gibraltar fee.

      Just a end note, which isn't really relevant but is interesting. In the last about 1300 years, Gibraltar has been a British territory for longer (and more years) than it was under Spanish control. It was first captured by Muslims in 711AD and ruled by them until 1309, when it was captured by the kingdom of Castile (one of the kingdoms that became Spain), then was recaptured by the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1333. It was then captured once more by Castile in 1462 and then remained part of Castile until 1704 when it was captured by British and Dutch forces during the War of the Spanish Succession.

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    2. Forgot to mention, that the reason I suggested that we could argue that the treaty of Utrecht is invalid, is so that Gibraltar could declare itself independent. After which the UK could sign a defence treaty with it.

      The treaty of Utrecht stops it being independent, as it says that if the UK no longer wants it, then it returns to Spanish control.

      But as I said, I don't see how a demand can be made that only one side obeys a treaty when the other side has broke it a number of times in the past and still does by making a territorial claim.

      I think that if Gibraltar was independent, then it would be easier to get international support for it, when it's much bigger neighbour bullies it.

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    3. Basically you just pointed out the problem Spanish authorities have been complaining about. Gibraltar's coastline has permanently been altered; first on the Westside, and now on the Eastside with the planned marina being built. I think most reasonable people do not claim Gibraltar to be given back to Spain; just a fair revision of the Utrech Treaty. Spain has been presented with far too many fait accompli by Gibraltar different governments (all of them well knowing that the UK will say "OK. Go ahead. We'll back you up all the way."
      Keep in mind that at least 8,000 Gibraltar citizens live in Spain, but tribute in Gibraltar. Not to mention Tobacco contraband, money laundering, and ship refueling with constant fuel leaks into the sea.
      There is still too much British Jingoism on this issue, and the fact is Gibraltar authorities love it (and uses it to its own benefit, and of course, against Spanish interests in the area).
      PD. If you love UN jurisdiction, have a look to all its resolutions on the de-colonisation of Gibraltar. Furthermore, does it really matters the time Gibraltar has been Spanish territory as compared to British? Imagine Germany keeping Jersey; would Britain have forgotten after, let’s say, 200 years?

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    4. Can't help feeling our best option on this is to develop options in the EU allowing Gibraltar to become an independent state (in the Commonwealth,with a treaty of perpetual mutual defence with the UK)...in terms that Catalonia and the Basques could also use to dump the rest of Spain...

      Gloomy Northern Boy

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    5. Revista Digital de Historia Militar,

      Ref de-colonising Gibraltar,

      Well I did say I support it being given independence. Can't really get more de-colonised than that. The whole idea of de-colonisation is/was to make sure people don't live without a say in their governments. So there are various ways of making it so Gibraltar is no longer regarded as a colony. We could do what France has done with its former colonies and make them a full part of France, with their own member of parliament. Currently it has it's own government that has control of everything other than defence and Foreign policy. It also has a MEP, but doesn't have any member of the British parliament.

      The problem is that Spain would complain about that. The only form of de-colonisation that Spain would accept is it becoming part of Spain, but no UN resolution says that has to happen. They are also General Assembly resolutions so not legally binding, where as the Law of the Sea treaty is a legally binding treaty. Another problem that a lot of people in the UK have with the whole claim on Gibraltar and the demand for de-colonisation is that the Territories that Spain have in north Africa. Now you will always hear Spanish people say they are different, but from the other side of the fence they look the same.

      There are also UN laws and resolutions on the rights of self determination which are just as valid as the de-colonisation ones. The problem is in most of the existing de-colonisation disputes, the various UN laws and resolutions conflict each other. But anyway, I'm all for some solution so that no argument can be made that Gibraltar is a colony (Same goes for the Falklands). However those solutions don't need to be the ones that Spain or Argentina demand, for the UN resolutions to be met.

      As for the coast line being changes, well again it is legally their water, so they should be able to change it as they want. Does Spain ask their permission when they make changes to their coast line?

      As I said Spain signed the UN law of the sea treaty. They didn't refuse to sign it until a clause was added to exclude Gibraltar. Making a declaration after they signed it, means nothing. The UK also made a declaration after Spain made their one, saying that Spain's declaration didn't have any legal basis. But that also means nothing, the only things that mean anything in law is what was in the treaty, and the treaty states that no declaration changes anything about the treaty. It's kind of like me selling my house, and signing all the legal documents and then declaring that I didn't mean the sale to include the bottom part of my garden.

      Also as far as I'm aware, the treaty of Utrecht doesn't say the waters around Gibraltar belong to Spain. It just doesn't mention them, as at the time, there wasn't the concept of Territorial waters.

      I do agree that sometimes there is too much Jingoism in this whole thing, but I think it is certainly on both sides.

      Spain has to accept that Gibraltar does have Territorial waters and stop harassing any boats or ships in those Territorial waters. If you don't know what I am talking about, then just look on Youtube for lots of videos of the problems in those waters.

      They have to accept that they signed the UN law of the seas treaty without a clause excluding Gibraltar, and that other treaties can change the treaty of Utrecht, unless it states that it doesn't. As I said they accept that the treaty of Amiens changed the terms in the treaty of Utrecht. If Gibraltar didn't have any territorial waters, then I think it would be about the only nation or territory in the world not to have any.

      Then Gibraltar can stop creating this reef and both try to work together.

      Like Gloomy said, I really think that some sort of independent state in the EU, is the best outcome.

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    6. continued,

      Btw, I'm glad that you mentioned Jersey, because that was one of the places I was thinking about when I mentioned the length of time that Gibraltar has been British. As Jersey used to be part of France, and its location is right next to France. If we used the arguments that Spain uses with Gibraltar, then France really should be claiming Jersey and the Channel Islands. Another example is that Mexico lost a lot of territory to the USA, but doesn't keep demanding it back and complaining. Just about every nation in the world has lost territory at some point in it's history.

      The treaty of Utrecht also gave Newfoundland and other parts of Canada to Great Britain from France. Does France still claim those?

      Also I mentioned it, because one of Spain's claims for the return of Gibraltar is on the basis of territorial integrity. Now I would think that to argue that successfully, you would need to show that the territory is historically part of that nation. Which with Gibraltar, I would suggest is hard to do.

      If both sides just started working together, then maybe in twenty or thirty years, Gibraltar would actually want to join Spain.

      Maybe right now it needs a completely independent EU working committee, that will force both sides to work together. The problem is getting an independent committee. One side of the other will always argue that such a committee is biased towards the other side.

      To be honest, I think the whole thing is kind of silly. Two mature neighbouring 'nations' should be able to get on together and work out their differences. As you said there are things that Gibraltar does that it shouldn't (but having control of it's own waters is not one of those things), but you also have to accept that there are things Spain does that it shouldn't.

      As for the UK always saying "OK. Go ahead." You have much more faith in the UK government than I do. As has been shown in the past, if the UK government could get away with giving Gibraltar to Spain they would do it in a heart beat. I'm sure Gibraltar is always very wary of wondering how much support they will get from the UK government in things.

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  12. If you gunboat diplomacy people want war, then send yourselves.

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  13. The Spanish Government seem to be cutting off their nose to spite their face here. A lot of those people stuck at the border are local Spanish who work in Gibraltar. In addition plenty of Gibraltarians (and tourists) pop over the border and spend good money in the local economy (when this sort of nonsence is not happening). In short I would imagine the local Spanish are non too chuffed about any of this. They may well have a deep seated belief that Gibralatar should be Spanish, but I would simply say to my Spanish friends Ceuta and Melilla? I think a phone call from perhaps Angela Merkal would have the most impact on the Spanish Government at the moment! As for Gunboat diplomacy etc, the RN have a long and uncanny history of popping up in the right place at the right time, so I think we can leave the routine deployment to speak for itself and leave anything more overt for a rainy day!

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