Friday, July 26, 2013


The latest confrontation between Gibraltar, Spanish fishermen and the Guardia Civil has me scratching my head. It fact it has me banging my head against a concrete block. 

First the area which the conflict has taken place is in British Gibraltar territorial waters so they belong to us. Second it is not just Whitehall and our government that says these waters are ours so too does international law. Hence whatever Madrid may say is irrelevant. Thirdly what goes on in those waters is the business of the UK and Gibraltar Government and of no concern to the Guardia Civil. And finally Cádiz fishermen should be fishing in Cádiz and Spanish waters so what happens in BGTW in no business of theirs at all, at all.

Of course Spain insists that Gibraltar has no territorial waters but that is not a local dispute between us and them it is Madrid flying in the face of the United Nations. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 sets out Gibraltar’s right to a three mile limit, and we could have 12 miles if we asked for it. Spain will claim that it signed the convention but will point out it added:

“In ratifying the Convention, Spain wishes to make it known that this act cannot be construed as recognition of any rights or status regarding the maritime space of Gibraltar that are not included in article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht of 13 July 1713 concluded between the Crowns of Spain and Great Britain. Furthermore, Spain does not consider that Resolution III of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea is applicable to the colony of Gibraltar, which is subject to a process of decolonization in which only relevant resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly are applicable."

This clause has no basis in international law and is yet more Madrid gobbledegook. The fact is Gibraltar’s three mile limit is recognized by the UN and whether Rajoy or any other Spanish politician agrees with it or not is neither here nor there. Our waters are a legal fact.

So why are we dropping blocks of concrete in to the waters of Gibraltar? No.6 in a statement tells us: “The Government announced the creation of reefs in different parts of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) as part of its marine protection strategy when it published the fishing report. These reefs will increase biodiversity and provide refuge for many marine species."

It would therefore follow at least as far as I can see that the actions of dropping the blocks is not an affront to environmentalists but in fact an environmentally good thing to do. It will preserve fish stocks albeit it may make raping the bottom of our seas by Spanish fishermen that more difficult. Good I say.

Gibraltarians enjoy the right to vote in European elections not because our Government or indeed the UK Government secured them for us but because private individuals took it upon themselves to take our case before the European Court. 

It may be that for political reasons our own Government and indeed the UK Government do not wish to test the Treaty of Utrecht or indeed our right to territorial waters in the international courts. However the fact is that until somebody does the confrontations that have been going on for many a year will continue for many a year more.

Spain is not going to go to court because it knows its arguments do not have a legal leg to stand on. Surely this nation of lawyers has amongst its number those who will fight for Gibraltar’s corner and bring an end to this Spanish nonsense once and for all. I don’t expect Danny Feetham to don his wig and gown and stand up for Gibraltar but may be there are others who will.