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Spain 'has no respect' for British territorial waters around Gibraltar

Published 10/09/2015

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo gives a speech to celebrate national day in Gibraltar
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo gives a speech to celebrate national day in Gibraltar

Spain "has no respect for the jurisdiction or sovereignty" of British territorial waters around Gibraltar and is endangering lives through its reckless activity at sea, the Rock's Chief Minister has warned.

Fabian Picardo accused the Spanish Government of doing all it could "to create bad feeling" between the two countries.

His comments come as relations between the two neighbours have hit a new low after a Spanish customs vessel fired shots during a dispute with a pleasure boat last month in the latest in a series of incursions off Gibraltar.

Mr Picardo told the Press Association: "It demonstrates to us that Spain is not an ally, it demonstrates to us that Spain has no respect for the jurisdiction or sovereignty of British Gibraltar territorial waters, and it demonstrates to us that the founding principles of a good, strong relationship and partnership are not there.

"She is not trying to assert her rights in a peaceful way at a tribunal, she is putting people's lives in danger by shooting live rounds."

He accused the Spanish of "recklessness and negligence".

And he said that while Britain and Gibraltar remain "at the table" and willing to talk in trilateral discussions aimed at improving relations - Spain has "got up and left".

Mr Picardo made the comments following a rally to mark Gibraltar National Day, which celebrates the day Gibraltar first voted to stay British.

Thousands of locals wearing their national colours of red and white descended on the town square to celebrate.

Mr Picardo said the current Spanish Government is not interested in having a dialogue with Gibraltar or creating better relations between the neighbours.

He said: "They simply want to foster confrontation. That is unfortunate. That achieves nothing. It is very unfortunate indeed."

And the Rock's future could face further difficulties if Britain decides to leave the European Union.

Around 10,000 Spanish workers cross the border to work in Gibraltar every day.

But if the UK votes to leave the EU and the European single market then Gibraltar's economic future would need a "serious" rethink, Mr Picardo warned.

He said: "If the decision is for it to withdraw from the single market that would have serious potential economic consequences for Gibraltar and we would have to rethink our economic strategy."

It comes as British MPs urged the UK Government to do more to protect the Rock.

Andrew Rosindell, a Conservative MP and vice chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gibraltar, said Spain has been allowed to get away with "atrocious" and "bullying" behaviour.

And he said he is "disappointed our Government is not taking much stronger action" against them.

He said: "The Spanish behaviour is absolutely outrageous for those who purport to be an ally of ours. They treat Gibraltar in an appalling fashion, as a small country on their doorstep.

"The British Government seems content to sit back and complain but they don't take any further action."

He called for more Royal Navy boats to be brought in to stop Spanish vessels entering the waters around Gibraltar illegally.

He added: "We need to show Spain that the British lion is going to roar if they carry on behaving the way they do."

Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley Jr, who also sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gibraltar, said: "I think there is bad blood and I think the British Government has a duty to ensure this is sorted out and sorted out in the interests of Gibraltar, because Gibraltar cannot be left alone and it cannot be interfered with by our Spanish neighbour.

"I think it is important for international relationships to get this right. After all, Spain is supposed to be a friend in Nato and we have this bad blood.

"These are our international waters, this is our country, these are our people and we must support them."

He called for a "senior" member of the Royal Family to visit the Rock as a "symbolic" gesture.

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