September 12, 2017

The strategic importance of Gibraltar does not require any explanation.  In July the Ministry of Defence announced it is to spend £2 million upgrading its maritime monitoring facility overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar.  Sitting high above Europa Point the facility keeps an eye on 60,000 ships entering or leaving the Mediterranean or crossing between Africa and Europe.  It plays a crucial role detecting any suspicious activity in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and logs all unlawful incursions by Spanish state vessels, as well as detecting the shipping of narcotics into Europe and combating the nefarious illegal transport of drugs and tobacco.  Windmill Hill Signal Station, with its panoramic view, keeps an eye on traffic visually, over the radio and electronically.  It feeds information back to the UK and its allies about all these activities and military movements.

Gibraltar is lightly defended, but this does not diminish the importance of its airfield and harbour, with three dry-docks, still capable of sheltering large naval fleets and task forces.  This is much appreciated by the US Navy, with the Government of Gibraltar having very cordial relations with members of the US Congress.  For the Royal Navy it remains an important supply and forwarding base.  These military facilities could not be sustained without the support of the inhabitants of Gibraltar, who stubbornly resist the efforts of the Spanish Government to bring them under their jurisdiction.  They are not Spanish, being over 300 years a fusion of Genoese, Maltese and Portuguese incomers needed to support and maintain the fortress.  There is an infusion of British and Irish that have intermarried to create a nation that is predominantly Catholic.  It is this Catholicism that has created a tolerant and respectful society welcoming of small but significantly important Jewish, Moroccan Muslim and Indian Hindu communities.  Spain ceded Gibraltar to the British Crown in 1713 following its capture by a joint British and Dutch force in 1704.  Fifty years ago, in a referendum, the people of the British Territory voted to remain British and two years later adopted a Constitution that guaranteed they would never pass to Spanish sovereignty.

Following the General Election in June this year, I wrote to the Prime Minister setting out ten points for immediate action in relation to Gibraltar:-

Dear Prime Minister,

The CDP is particularly concerned with regard to the situation of the Overseas Territory of Gibraltar during and after the negotiations and agreement arising from the invoking of Article 50 of the TEU.

Gibraltar’s relations with its neighbour have been fraught with problems, regardless of the make up of the Spanish Government.  I have been a regular and frequent visitor to the Territory since 2002 and I am well acquainted with the concerns and fears of its citizens.

It is understandable that those fears played a major part in their overwhelming Referendum vote to remain in the European Union.  It is also admirable, notwithstanding that vote, they and the Government of Gibraltar are committed to the process for exiting the EU.

It is inevitable that negotiations with the European Commission will be difficult, and in relation to Gibraltar more so as the Spanish Government seeks to gain an advantage as it pursues its territorial claim contrary to the Treaty of Utrecht.  Problems at the land border are intermittent but are too frequent to be more than technical in nature.

Non-innocent passage and incursions in to British Gibraltar Territorial Waters by Spanish State vessels, and commercial boats, are persistent and contrary to UNCLOS.  Added to which there have been recent incursions in to Gibraltar’s airspace by Spanish military aircraft.

These behaviours are non-friendly and not befitting of an EU and NATO partner.

The difficulty and potential for the Spanish Government to exercise its normal veto in relation to the Commission’s final draft agreement is obvious.  That they have been given a double veto by virtue of a new clause 24 in the European Council’s guidelines of 29th April is an affront to the normal rules of diplomacy.  It is for that reason, and also to reassure the people of Gibraltar, we are putting forward a list of actions that are unilateral in nature but will bring comfort to British Gibraltar.

First, we would ask you to consider visiting Gibraltar in person, to directly address and reassure its citizens in Casemates Square, during the National Day celebrations this coming September.  Also, you would be afforded the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the situations causing concern and hear first-hand the views of ordinary citizens.  While I know that you would receive a warm welcome, there would be objections from the Spanish Government who were very agitated when condemning David Cameron’s abortive and cut-short visit.  Apparently from their perspective the Prime Minister of the UK is not allowed to visit the Territory.

Second, those members of the Cabinet who have not previously visited Gibraltar should also be encouraged to visit the Territory to acquaint themselves with the geography and to be briefed and familiarised with the real facts and difficulties.  Dare I also venture to suggest the holding of a Cabinet meeting on the Rock.

Third, it was in 1954 that Her Majesty the Queen made her first and only visit to Gibraltar.  Another visit is long overdue.  Again, there would be Spanish Government objections, but given the current situation this is a necessity.  It would also be an affront to Gibraltarians if a reciprocal State visit to Spain by the Queen was not followed by a visit to her Territory in the Iberian Penisular.

Fourth, additional visits by members of the Royal Family to Gibraltar should be programmed.  Visits by HRH the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex have been very successful and warmly recieved.  These visits help to bolster the morale of the population.

Fifth, there is the vexed question of the territorial limit of BGTW and UNCLOS.  Gibraltar is one of a handful of territories that has the minimum three-mile limit where its geography permits.  On the East side there is no natural restriction to extending it to the twelve-mile limit.  That this has not been done is down to political and diplomatic reasons.  Whether this is done before or after the UK exit from the EU would not normally be a problem.  However, you are dealing with ‘Spanish Practices’ and as such you can be assured that if the proper notice in accordance with UNCLOS is not observed and completed before exit it will be an ongoing issue for Spain and a sore for another three hundred years.

The remaining part of this letter – dealing with defence and security issues – will be published in the next Gibraltar post.  The Prime Minister has acknowleged the letter and it was forwarded to the Foreign Office for a ministerial reply.  This was duly received from Sir Alan Duncan MP, Foreign Office minister with responsibility for Europe and the Americas.  This stated the standard UK position in relation to Gibraltar.  He was not able to speculate on any future Royal visits, but acknowledged the important anniversary of this year’s Gibraltar Day and how Ministers might participate. He was clear that there was no plan at present to extend BGTW to twelve nautical miles but the option to do so was retained.  We can now judge how the Goverment actually responded by the local news-media reports listed below for your information.  The CDP would have and will in the future act in a manner set out in our letter.


Royal Navy 3

September 10, 2017

The UK Government has finally announced its response to the independent report, prepared by Sir John Parker last year, that outlined proposals for a National Shipbuilding Strategy for the Royal Navy.  They have accepted Sir John’s recommendations for a renaissance in British shipbuilding and the way naval ships are procured by the Ministry of Defence.  The aim is to “make the UK’s maritime industry more competitive, grow the RN fleet by the 2030s, export ships overseas, and boost innovation, skills, jobs and productivity across the UK.”  The Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, declared – “the new approach will lead to more cutting-edge ships for the growing RN that will be designed to maximise exports and be attractive to navies around the world” …… “backed up by a commitment to spend billions on new ships, our plans will help boost jobs, skills, and growth in shipyards and the supply chain across the UK”.  The MoD is committed to new ships through its rising budget and £178 billion equipment plan.  At the core of this proposed renaissance is the plan to build five new light frigates [Type 31e] using a modular system of blocks manufactured at various locations and then assembled centrally at a location still to be decided.  The cost of each ship is capped at £250 million and the design has still to be settled.  This should be news for rejoicing, but there is much to criticise and much for the opposition parties to scrutinize.  They still seem to be asleep, no doubt preoccupied with plotting to derail Brexit.  So here goes, a CDP response.

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Security and Stability 2

August 12, 2017

In relation to the European Union, and the Hope and Vision for it, which we had but remains unfulfilled; our departure from the EU raises issues about what our future relationship will be, especially as there seems no desire by the core members of the EU and the Eurozone to reform their institutions.  Our two areas of concern are the future of Gibraltar and the continuance of the special relationship with the Republic of Ireland through the British + Irish Council and the Common Travel Area.  The threats arise from the EU failing to recognise the special status of Ireland  by virtue of the Republic being a member of the CTA and of the EU.

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The British Royal Navy 2

August 8, 2017

The current situation faced by the RN is reminiscent to that when King William III ascended the throne; neglected and underfunded.  His ambition was to rebuild the Navy to a position of pre-eminence; his problem was the lack of funds.  His solution was to borrow the money and thereby created the Bank of England and the National Debt, which are still with us.  It has been mooted that our current Debt is the equivalent of the cost of all the wars fought since.  There was a consequence arising from the building programme, the oak forests of Britain and Ireland were laid waste.  The construction of ships was a massive enterprise that stimulated the economy and did lead to the industrial revolution.  Britannia really did rule the waves as the RN won control of the seas.  Control of the seas resulted in control of the world and the British Empire.  Our modern desires for the RN are less ambitious and relatively less costly.  We merely want to save the RN.

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The British Royal Navy

July 23, 2017

Our concerns about the state of the UK Armed Forces are extensive, particularly so with the RN which is at a very low ebb.  Each year Navy Books publishes a Complete Guide to the ships and aircraft of the Fleet.  This is authored and compiled by Steve Bush.  For twenty-two years he served in the RN.  On leaving in 2000 he joined Maritime Books and from 2003 has been editor of Warship World.  There is no better person to comment on the state of the RN, so for your information we republish his Introduction to the 2017 British Warships & Auxiliaries. Read the rest of this entry »

Security and Stability

July 16, 2017

CDP policies are framed by reference to the essential ‘six systems of community’ as listed in categories 2 to 7 in the sidebar to the right.  Over and above those is the duty to ensure that the country is secure and stable; as this enables and allows the ‘six systems’ to flourish.  Since ancient times the prime duty of a King has been to protect his subjects, mainly against external threats, but also internally by imposition of law and order.  In modern times this prime duty, to protect its citizens, rests with the executive government overseen by the people’s representatives.  The duty to protect its citizens can now be more widely defined to include environmental and health hazards, as well as the unscrupulous behaviour of conmen and carpet-baggers.  However, for the elaboration and discussion of this category we are limiting our coverage to the three sub-elements of foreign policy, defence and civil protection.

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Rally for Life brings Dublin gridlock

July 8, 2017

This year the Rally and March was clearly focused on the campaign to win the upcoming referendum that will propose the rewording of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution.  This will effectively legalise the provision of abortion to an extent that will make abortion in the UK look moderate by comparison.  The push by politicians and the extreme-left, cheered on by the news-media, has a momentum that appears unstoppable as it is supported by external forces.  It is an effort that will fail because there is no substance to their superficial and irrational premise that totally ignores the humanity of the pre-born child.  The massive turn-out on 1st July is indicative that the defenders of the 8th Amendment are active and organised, building on the work of the last few months, and most important are growing in number in every part of Ireland.

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