Gibraltar row won’t be diffused by political powerplays

HMS Westminster sets sail for Gibraltar en route to pre-planned international training exercise Cougar in the Mediterranean and Gulf. Photo: PA

A pre-planned training exercise this may be but what timing: British warships sailing through disputed waters to Her Majesty's naval base on Gibraltar.

It's a nice bit of naval hardware to spice up the spat with Spain. HMS Westminister, RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Mounts Bay now all heading through the disputed waters ready to dock.

But think about this way – it’s a bit of a bonus for the Spanish too – nothing like a big diplomatic dispute to detract from a corruption scandal at home.

In the middle the people of Gibraltar – out in force today – and the Spanish workers trying to cross the border every day for work to try and escape the punishing financial crisis back home.

And all this is over 70 blocks dropped in the Ocean. A fishing reef, supported by Greenpeace, created by the Gibraltarians in order they say to protect their fish stocks.

It has caused fury among the Spanish fishermen who say it runs the risk of destroying their nets, their catches and their livelihoods.

Gibraltar isn’t backing down, claiming hell will freeze over before they have a change of plan and things aren’t any less heated when it comes to the UK and Spain.

David Cameron saying Spanish border checks to cross into Gibraltar, now taking up to four hours, is an underhand way to seek revenge and he’s considering taking action in the European Courts.

David Cameron (right) and the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy pictured together in 2012. Credit: PA

Meanwhile the Spanish are seeking support from the United Nations.

All this from two countries who are supposedly allies standing together as part of the European Union and NATO.

The spats between Spain and the UK are nothing new but this one seems to be taking on a life of its own.

Gibraltarians are weary of it but accept it goes with the territory – however they’re all too aware Spain do have the power to shut the border, as happened in 1960.

That would have a catastrophic effect on an economy currently sporting a 7.8% growth rate.

This is a row that could be diffused by politicians – but it won’t be diffused by the powerplay of politics.

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