Saturday, November 23, 2013


On Tuesday morning there was a mini-debate on Gibraltar in the House of Commons. It was not in the main chamber but in Westminster Hall and was opened by Jim Dobbin, the Labour – Co-op MP for Heywood and Middleton. He prefaced his words by stating his interest as he is also the Chairman of the all party group on Gibraltar.
Jim Dobbin, stood up at 11.00 and continued until 11.15. He frequently gave way so that other MPs - Labour, Conservative, DUP - could also have their say. Then at 11.15 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mark Simmonds, spoke as well as answering MPs questions until 11.30.
So let us first set out what this meant in Gibraltar time. Here on the Rock Jim Dobbin took the floor at noon, sat down at 12.15, the minister then spoke from 12.15 to 12.30. The details of the debate can be checked in Hansard and I will post the link at the end of this article.
The MPs who took part in this debate were very knowledgeable on Gibraltar but were talking largely in the past tense. They spoke about the abuses over the summer, the EC Inspectors, the Guardia Civil shooting and so on and so forth but what they didn’t know as they questioned Mark Simmonds was that at that very moment a Spanish State vessel was sitting in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and refusing to move. They didn’t know and Mark Simmonds didn’t tell them. Had they been aware of that fact then the comments addressed to the Minister would have been far more pointed, heated and angry.
So the question is this: did Mark Simmonds deliberately mislead the House by not coming to the debate and making a statement on the latest blatant incursion by a Spanish State vessel?

The Minister opened his statement by saying: “I congratulate the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin) on securing this important debate at such a significant time and on the articulate and passionate way in which he outlined his case.” Indeed but he didn’t tell Jim Dobbin, Bob Stewart, Caroline Dinenage, Martin Horwood, Ian Paisley, Simon Hughes and Robert Neil – the MPs whose questions he answered – just how “a significant time” it was.

Now to our own Government’s statement which was made on Tuesday afternoon. “The Government condemns the sustained incursion into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) by the Spanish state survey vessel RV “Ramon Margalef” yesterday and today and its dangerous navigation in our waters. The Government takes a very serious view of this development which represents yet another escalation of Spain’s campaign against Gibraltar on land and at sea.

“The lengthy duration of the illegal incursion, which lasted about 21 hours, is something new. …The latest serious development involved a Spanish state vessel remaining in British waters overnight and ignoring the warnings to get out issued by the Royal Navy. Indeed, the vessel came within 250 metres of the entrance to Gibraltar Harbour and sailed in close proximity to other ships at anchor in the Bay of Gibraltar. This led to a separate warning issued to them by the Gibraltar Port Authority on the grounds of safety to shipping.”

So the “Ramon Margalef” arrived on Monday, was ordered to leave by the Royal Navy which she refused to do, she stayed in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters overnight yet when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mark Simmonds, addressed the House of Commons on Gibraltar at 11.15 on the Tuesday, (12.15 Gibraltar time) he failed to mention it.

There can only be two explanations for his actions. The first is that he was totally unaware of what was happening in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters in which case why is he the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs?

The second is that he deliberately misled the House on such an important matter by acting as if nothing had happened. If that is the case why is he still the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs?

Sunday, November 17, 2013


This year is the 300 th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht. Instead of holding events to commemorate not celebrate the signing of the same our efforts would have been better expended in dumping it in the international courts of law.

The Treaty of Utrecht is now a dusty historical document. The only bits that is clung to by Spain are the paragraphs relating to Gibraltar. However it is clear also that the Foreign Office in London also honours this discredited piece of parchment as has been demonstrated at the UN.

I also sure there is a cupboard in the archives of the Foreign Office in which a copy of the Treaty of Utrecht is kept, next to the packet of Hobnobs. On the anniversary of its signing each year the Spanish Ambassador will be summoned to Whitehall and will be accompanied to the cupboard by a high ranking Mandarin, an Old Etonian and High Anglican, and together they will sing hosannas, genuflect then wave incense before the text. They’ll then have a Hobnob each and sip a cup of English Breakfast tea.

This old battered document has a negative impact on the relations between London and Gibraltar. For all the political rhetoric by the British Government and our own over Gibraltarians right to self-determine their own future, there will be those who wave the Treaty and speak in respectful tones of its wording. It is the hooded cobra weaving before Gibraltarians eyes holding us in its glare and undermining Gibraltar’s future security.

We are constantly told by members of our Government and Gibraltarian legal eagles who know about such things that the Treaty of Utrecht would not stand up in an international court of law. We were told this week that Spain will not take its claim over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to law because it knows it would lose. This is nothing new. We have known for years that Spanish lawyers who deal in international law have said that the Treaty would be laughed out of court. If this is so then why has not the Gibraltar Government of the day grasped this nettle and had it consigned to the history books by going to court so Gibraltarians can get on with their lives without Madrid quoting its claims left, right and centre.

Taking the Treaty to court is a win – win situation. If the court indeed backed the Treaty and ruled it should stand then all we would have to do is ensure that the links between Gibraltar and Britain are so Rock solid it would never be “returned” to Spain. Integration on the style of Ceuta and Melilla comes to mind. If on the other hand the court comes down on the side of the opinion of the majority of international lawyers and the Treaty is indeed dead, then so too are Spain’s claims over Gibraltar.

Until the day such a court ruling is sought, and Madrid’s Fascist ambitions over Gibraltar and its people are shown to be just that, then Gibraltarians will live in uncertainty. It will be the fault of Gibraltar because we have done nothing to end this farce.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Yesterday I wrote of the proposed Third Way in Cataluña which would see the region not stay as part of the Spanish State as at present, not becoming independent either, but under a new Constitution becoming a federal State.

Germany is a federal state, Spain could go the same way, but what about the UK and what implications could this have for Gibraltar?

It has to be said there is no debate in the UK at present for a federal state but things have to change. Currently the parliamentary system is a mess. The Westminster Parliament and the British Government speaks for the nation. However Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own parliaments whatever they might be called. England does not: it is ruled by Westminster and whilst Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs can speak and vote on English matters, English MPs have no say in their respective regional parliaments. It is an unsustainable situation and will have to change.

That change may come in less than a year from now when Scotland holds its independence referendum in September. If Scotland votes for independence then we shall see a break up of the United Kingdom. However if Scotland stays expect to see additional powers for its government and parliament.

Now there are those who have campaigned for Gibraltar to be integrated with Britain. However if that came to pass Gibraltar would be little more than another UK county. However if the UK moves to a parliament for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with a separate Westminster Parliament and Government taking decisions on defence, foreign affairs etc then we have an interesting situation. In essence that is the status quo between the UK and Gibraltar now.

So if the UK became in reality a federation with English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments deciding the bread and butter issues could or should Gibraltar ask to join that system? Could or should Gibraltar become a federal State in a federal Britain? The British Government would still boss foreign affairs, defence, the key finances of the nation but that is no different from now as far as Gibraltar is concerned.

Gibraltar would still run its own economy and affairs through its own government and parliament as now. Our parliament and government would be on an equal footing to those of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The way the UK is governed is going to have to change because sooner or later the people of England, which is the key component, are going to become increasing fed up with the other regions being given more powers at the same time as having a one-sided say in their affairs.

It could present an opportunity for Gibraltar, not to integrate with the UK, but to take on a federal status with Britain. What could work for Cataluña with Spain could be our future security in a federal UK in an increasingly federal Europe.


The UK has a new ambassador in Spain whose remit also extends to Andorra. He is Simon Manley CMG who replaces Giles Paxman. Paxman was best known for being Jeremy’s brother and I will leave it to you to decide whether he defended Gibraltar well in Madrid or not.

Simon Manley arrives as we await our new Governor of Gibraltar. I believe he will sail into the harbour sometime this month. Lieutenant-General Sir James Dutton is a former Royal Marine who has served his country in some of the hot spots of the world such as the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is battle tested and so will no doubt happily slip in to the chair vacated by Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns.

It is my understanding that Sir Adrian and Sir James are old friends and hence no doubt apart from the formal briefings our current governor has well and truly marked the cards of his successor. Their rank and military records show these are not men who seek a comfy billet and in the diplomatic world Gibraltar has never been that.

So whilst our men, perhaps one day we shall even get a woman, are battle hardened our Man in Madrid comes from a totally different background. Before being posted to Madrid, Simon Manley was Director Europe at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office from 2011 to 2013, where he was responsible for policy towards the EU, the UK’s bilateral relations with its European partners, and the FCO’s network of 57 European posts and more than 2000 staff. So in Gibraltar we continue with the rarely moved from tradition of men of war whilst in Madrid we have a man who no doubted commanded the cocktail circuit.

So what did Simon Manley have to say for himself as he took over as Ambassador? He stated: “I am delighted to be here in Spain and look forward to strengthening our broad and deep bilateral relationship. Spain is a key ally within the European Union and NATO and is one of our most important trading partners.

“Creating sustainable growth is a priority for both the UK and Spain. I’m delighted that some 400 Spanish companies are registered in the UK and investors such as Santander, Telefónica, Iberdrola and Ferrovial have made Spain our sixth largest inward investor, totalling 40 billion pounds of Foreign Direct Investment stock at the end of 2011.

“Meanwhile, British companies exported 8.27 billion pounds (9.7 billion euros) of goods and service to Spain, making it the UK’s eighth largest export market.”
“I am excited by the prospects for cooperation and growth in sectors like energy, car manufacturing and life sciences that are so important for future growth.

“Liberalising trade both within the European Union and beyond it is a vital enabler to create jobs and growth. As two open economies with strong Atlantic ties, the UK and Spain share a common commitment to secure an ambitious trade agreement between the EU and the US and to ensure that the EU is at the forefront of moves to free up world trade.”

Mr Manley also highlighted the importance of British citizens in Spain.

“More than 13 million Britons visit Spain every year, generating 1 per cent of Spain’s GDP. Some 800,000 have made Spain their home permanently or for part of the year, and the UK remains the largest foreign investor in Spain’s property market. I’m impressed by how the British Consulates across Spain work with Spanish partners to do an excellent job of assisting British nationals.” 

All very well and good and his words no doubt went down a storm in Madrid and at the Foreign Office. However what Simon Manley failed to mention once was Gibraltar which is currently the hot topic between the UK and Spain. He failed to mention part of his job would be to fight our corner in Madrid on behalf of his boss the Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Prime Minister David Cameron who are both bullish in our defence.

I am sure that in times of crisis, which is virtually every day at the moment, the telephone lines between the Convent and the British Embassy in Madrid are hot (probably bugged too). Perhaps Sir Adrian before he heads off for a well earned retirement could do us one last favour and tell Simon Manley the facts of life in these parts. The Sir Adrians and Sir James’s of this world are normally straight talkers: so Simon need to know that being the UK’s Ambassador to Madrid is more than just a trade mission. He can battle to improve trade but he also has to battle for Gibraltar.