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.