Monday, May 28, 2012

Bring back Force H...?

If Argentina's behavior on the Falklands wasn't enough of a nuissance already, Spain, despite its very serious economical and internal issues (or perhaps exactly because of them...?) is stepping up its provocations and pressure about the Gibraltar non-issue. Apart from illegal fishing escorted by the Guardia Civil (a real and cheeky challenge), Spain's Royal Family even deserted the celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II's jubilee. 
Immaturity on state-level which would be amusing if it wasn't dangerous and uselessly expensive. Confrontations at sea between police boats do not come for free, nor do they come without risks.

The UK government's correct (and inevitable) answer is that there won't be any sovereignty negotiations over Gibraltar so long as Gibraltar itself does not asks for them. And it is extremely unlikely that Gibraltar will ever want them. The constant harassing coming from Spain is likely to only further reinforce the Rock's hostility to their annoying neighboor, especially considering that in 2002, when offered the chance to vote on the issue, the people of Gibraltar voted 99% in favor of British sovereignty and put a clause in the Constitution that says the british government should never accept negotiating on sovereignty unless asked by Gibraltar itself. This clause was accepted by the UK's government in 2006.
In 2004, Spain itself officially agreed that the Gibraltarians should have a say in the matter, even if their actions do not really seem to go in the same direction as their promises. The "say in the matter" does not quite go as far as implying recognition of the right to self-determination, in any case. 

Gibraltar has been british ever since it was given to Britain with the Utrecht Treaty in 1713.

In 1964 the UN adopted a resolution, connected to the "termination of colonialism" initiatives, that said that Gibraltar should be returned to Spain.
A first referendum held in 1967 however saw Gibraltarians vote 12,138 in favor and 44 against staying British, a clearly one-sided result, even though Spain's position is that the population's wishes are worthless of consideration.
In 1969 Gibraltar adopted a new constitution inclusive of greater self-government, but with emphasis confirmed on UK allegiance. A further referendum was again a total win for UK sovereignty arguments, 17900 to 187.

Gibraltar defends itself and its waters mainly through the Royal Gibraltar Police, but there is also a military presence in the form of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and a Royal Navy presence in the form of the Gibraltar Squadron, which lines the patrol boats HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar plus a number of RHIBs and an handful of men.
They provide force protection to visiting warships, mostly Royal Navy ones, but they also intervene in support of the RGP when necessary, as during the latest confrontations with fishing boats and trawlers coming in to fish illegally in british waters, escorted by Spain's Guardia Civil boats.  

Tomorrow, Foreign Secretary William Hague will have talks in London with Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, and Gibraltar will be an hot topic.

But one has to semi-seriously wonder if, instead of today's little Gibraltar Squadron and ministerial talks, the return of a sizeable Royal Navy Force H isn't what Spain needs to calm down for once.

Ah, nostalgia! 


  1. I have a question for you: Why and how an Italian like you becomes such an unthinking groupie of the British? They do not deserve such adulation. And the problem of Gibraltar and Spains's claims over it is not so easy to dispose off as you merrily try to do...

    1. I think it is. There is no spanish Gibraltar people alive from 1713, and from then onwards, after Spain signed a document giving the land to Britain, people in there has been british and overwhelmingly want to stay british as successive referendums show.

      Forcing Gibraltar back into Spain would be a literal take over by force of a country and of a population, no matter how small, who clearly say they want to live as they do now.

      Self-Determination, one of the most important single rights over which modern society is based. Until their determination is to stay british, that's how it should be.

      If tomorrow the moors came and wanted Granada back, would you hand it over?
      Such a request would be about as justified as Spain's own claim on Gibraltar.

  2. The Spanish seem to purposely forget about Ceuta - double standards ?

    1. A fair question, isn't it?

    2. I do recall the Moroccans being very annoyed when members of the Spanish royal family visited - it was considered insensitive.

      I myself am not a royalist (all a bit medieval to me) however members of the British Royal family would not visit Gib' due to viewed insensitivity by the Spanish.

      Taking a broader view it is interesting in times of economic crisis nationalism in all its forms, raises it's ugly head. A very good means to deflect criticism at home.

      Ironically, you mention Argentina. Spain due to recent forced nationalisation (justified ?) should have more in common with the UK.

      Playground politics...

  3. The Mintcake MakerMay 28, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    Good post Gabs. Since we've announced plans to purchase outright the 3 rivers as opposed to leasing them. Could we not:

    a) refit them with a standard 30mm gun, since i think they are the only vessels with 20mm mounts now?

    b) Since the Rivers are EEZ/Fishery protection vessels, then maybe we could transfer one of them to the Gib squadron for a few months or over summer. A river with a couple of Offshore Raiding craft stored on the back deck and a couple of RM boarding parties would add some punch to the Gib Squadron's fighting/deterrent capabilities.

    Of course in my fantasy fleet land, I would replace the Gib Squadron, with a Mediterranean Squadron, based out of Gibraltar and Cyprus with several new MHPC vessels and maybe a few CB90’s for good measure


  4. As opposed to Argentina and the Falklands, I carry some sympathy for Spain. Afterall, the fishermen must be struggling to make ends meet for obvious economic reasons. A fisher's life is a lucky and hard one at times. Added to this any Spanish government wanting to make a statement of sovereignty and we have a little crisis.
    It should/probably will be settled over the table, if it ever is.
    I understand your nostalgia Gab, but we really don't need to do more than police the waters of Gibraltar. A carrier battlegroup just raises too many questions from our allies, I imagine.

    I still find it funny how the Spaniards take leave of their memories when it comes to their Morrocan enclaves!

  5. I like this blog very much, because is one of the most interesting about allied armies, specially about British Army.
    But I am deeply angry with this news about Gibraltar question.
    I strongly recommend all of you that you must read more and speak/write less.

    There is nothing to do between Gibraltar an both Ceuta And Melilla. These two places were spanish cities in North Africa by the times there wasn't any Morocco kingdom in the surroundings. Any claim for giving them back to actual Marocco King could be as absurd as if the nowadays american-indian people claimed to HM Queen Elizabeth about the property of New York City.

    In the opposite, Gibraltar was taken by british armed forces during a war against the Kingdom of Spain, when Britain was supporting the Austrian aspirant to the Crown in despite of the French one.

    That war ended three centuries ago and, as the United Nations has asked for, is time for giving back Gibraltar to Spain, in the same way United Kingdom has given back Hong Kong to China, South Africa to south-african people and so on. Did United Kingdom asked the Hong Kong people about their wishes before?

    So, please, as we usually say in Spain: "don't mix sheeps and goats".

    1. There is much more resemblance between Gibraltar and Ceuta's situation than between Gibraltar and Hong Kong. Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 because the town had been literally "leased" by Britain with an agreement running up to, you guess it, 1997.

      There is absolutely no reason why Gibraltar should be given to Spain. Its passage to the UK was ratified by the Treaty of Utrect and reiterated in the treaty of Versailles.
      It has been british for over 3 centuries, and its population has decided to be a self-governing mini-state under UK sovereignty. Until that changes, in no way can civilized people argue that they should be given over to another country which they clearly do not want to be part of.

      "These two places were spanish cities in North Africa by the times there wasn't any Morocco kingdom in the surroundings."

      Are you aware that, with this reasoning, Britain could probably lay claims over vast areas of the world's land? When britain took India, for example, there wasn't any "India" state, but a variety of kingdoms and colonies and towns.
      So, what, is New Delhi rightfully british then? Or perhaps can only be claimed by a re-edition of whatever sultanate existed before british rule?

      It just makes no sense.

    2. No Gabriele, there are no resemblances between Ceuta/Melilla and Gibraltar.

      When the first expeditionary Spanish forces landed in Melilla, no one was living there, Morocco doesn't existed as a kingdom neither a country, and no battle took place for them to conquer that place. It was 1497.

      When the British army arrived to Gibraltar, there were Spaniards living there, it was a town belonging to the Spanish kingdom, our Army tried to strike back and recover Gibraltar, but it was impossible because most of our units were fighting against Brits, Austrians, Germans, and other armies in Spain, France, the Netherlands, etc.

      We had to sign a treaty with Great Britain in order to change Gibraltar for peace, and since that moment Gibraltar became a colony, not a British town. The same kind of colony that United Nations claims everyday to give back to the real owner, in this case, Spain. The same kind of colony that the United Kingdom had got everywhere in Africa, Asia, America, Oceania.

      One of the last ones was Hong Kong, and UK had to give back to China, in the same way that in a close future, you will have to give Gibraltar back to Spain.

      Perhaps in a far far future, Ceuta and Melilla will be a part of Morocco, but today, they don't have any legal or reasonable argumment to claim Spaniards about them. Perhaps, when the most of their population ask for become a part of Morocco our politicians can sit together and study the case. Probably, it will be necessary to ask Ceuta and Melilla people about their feelings, but also to the rest of the Spaniards, because Ceuta and Melilla have been always Spanish and never Moroccan.

      In the other hand, people living in Gibraltar can feel today as british, but the place where they are living was conquer to Spain when Spain does exist, and it has to be given back to Spain. So, the only people who has to decide if Gibraltar is Spanish or British will be our two nations, represented by our two governments, not the Gib' people, in the same way that the Hong Kong people was never asked about their wishes before they became Chinese again.

    3. Hong Kong was leased, on a contract ending in 1997, i repeat. It's a very particular case.

      As to Ceuta, again, for what i know the story is a bit different to what you picture.
      As it first was Portoguese, not Spanish, and only sided with Spain during the war that followed Portugal's return to independence.

      So, reasoning with your terms, Ceuta should belong to Portugal, if not Morocco.

      Sorry, but i totally disagree with the point you are trying to make.
      With your reasoning, Italy should then get Savoia back from France, too, and many other areas should change hands. And this because hundreds of years ago they were part of this or that kingdom, regardless of the wishes of today's living and feeling people. I find the proposition simply, completely ridiculous.

  6. What's wrong with Laitn people that they collectively run their economies, live within their means and respect human rights such as the right to self determination? And all their former colonies are a mess so perhaps their societal structures are wanting....just saying, you know.....

  7. Can't run of course....

  8. I do like the debate here. And read with interest the comments from Spaniard.

    However, I do not agree that Hong Kong and Gib are analogous with Gib vs Cueta for the reasons that Gabriele succinctly outlines.

    Cueta is little known in the UK but when it is rarely raised the debate tends to falter. I would argue that Cueta is the best playing card that Gib has if wider publicity is or becomes needed - double standards

    On a related matter, it is with interest that the current leader of Gib' parliament has such an interesting heritage with prominent Spanish ancestry. The British when they become nationalistic forget they are a mongrel nation - I mean that in the nicest of terms :)

    Finally, I do refer back to my comment about 'playground politics' which makes excellent 'displacement activity' at a time of economic turmoil.

  9. The United Nations had recognized that the colonial situation in Gibraltar had disrupted Spain’s unity and territorial integrity, and the administering Power itself had admitted that the independence of its colony would not be possible against Spain’s wishes. It is not at all realistic to think that the Government of Spain could ever accept the perpetuation of the present situation, in which the administering Power and the colony seek to ignore Spain’s legitimate rights under the Treaty of Utrecht and the doctrine of the United Nations. The General Assembly had spent more than three decades calling for a negotiated solution between the United Kingdom and Spain, adopting a consensus decision which outlined the United Nations mandate to hold a bilateral dialogue within the Brussels Process.

    1. The UN is a joke. Their position on Gibraltar and on the Falklands is contradictory and in open conflict with their main, funding principle, that of self determination for the people.

  10. Are you agree with the right of
    the Scottish people to self-determination?

    1. They are getting a referendum, and if they'll want indipendence, they will get it.

      I don't think they will ask for it when the day comes, though.
      I'm of the opinion that they aren't in condition of walking away without taking a massive aftershock.

  11. Although Spain technically did "sign-away" Gibraltar in the Treaty of Utrecht, there were British and other foreign military forces inside Spain that had opposed the succession of a Bourbon to the Spanish throne, so there was an element of force in the transfer of ownership of the Rock to London. Anyway, the way things are going now, both Spain and Britain, and also Italy, are dying societies. Perhaps one day the Emirate of Britannia will restore Jabal at-Tariq (Gibraltar, or "Tariq's Rock") to the Emirate of Andalus.


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