STRATEGIC ISSUES: Our aim is to protect our sovereignty and our interests

STRATEGIC ISSUES: Our aim is to protect our sovereignty and our interests

DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER DR JOSEPH GARCIA has served as a Member of Parliament for exactly twenty years this past February. In his 21st Budget address overall and his eighth as a member of the Government, he spoke at length on his responsibilities including Strategic issues, as follows: 

The bulk of the work of our London Office is centred on Westminster. Brexit has devoured our and their time and energy.

However, Gibraltar House in London also monitors the foreign and national security policies of Spain and the United Kingdom, including their bilateral relationship.

We do this to try to assess how these may affect Gibraltar’s political and economic security in the future.

This is particularly relevant as the UK tries to reconfigure its overall global posture.

I do not need to remind the House that defence and security issues are a UK responsibility.

Nonetheless, the Government of Gibraltar does have a view on these matters.

It is widely expected that there will be a re-shaping of existing alliances and a building of new ones. We want to ensure that, whilst we always remain supportive of the United Kingdom’s strategic objectives, we never become a tradeable commodity in the wider game.

Our aim is to protect our sovereignty and our interests.

An overview of the situation will help in understanding the complexities we face beyond Brexit and the political crisis in the United Kingdom.

Britain has relied on NATO and the EU, as the two key Euro-Atlantic alliances, to protect itself and its global interests.

Gibraltar has benefitted from the UK’s membership and leadership in both.

But, the Euro-Atlantic alliances are under stress as the European powers try to find a balance within themselves, and between themselves, and their place in the new world order.

Filling the void left by UK

It is not yet clear how states will align with each other within the EU to fill the void being left by the United Kingdom.

We know that Spain is keen to be at the top table and will strive to bend European policy towards its interests. Indeed, we have experienced this already.

This was probably a mere taster of what to expect when we leave.

When it comes to NATO, we find that it is routinely under the spotlight, especially because of political developments in the United States.

There is regular criticism of Europe’s commitment to its own security.

In contrast, the United Kingdom continues to perform its NATO duties and Gibraltar too plays a role.

The most obvious visible sign of this role are the regular visitors to our port.

The one positive aspect is that the Euro-Atlantic space remains rules based, with the overarching structures of the EU and NATO still in place.

However, beyond our immediate geopolitical space the world order is changing.

The UK has an eye on these changes, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.

Importantly, the Royal Navy has conducted freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea.

From Gibraltar’s point of view, the Royal Navy’s activities there demonstrate that the UK is meticulously keeping within the terms of UNCLOS.

Is important that the UK acts with the same resolve and determination in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters where there are similar UNCLOS issues.

In a sense, Brexit is a rehashing of the centuries old British policy debate about the balance that Britain should strike between its European interests and its interests in the wider world.

The indications are that it could take a long time to find this balance. It will logically involve a modus vivendi with Europe.

Some may be wondering what this global tour has to do with Gibraltar?

It seems obvious that political and financial realities will shape the policy choices that the United Kingdom makes going forward.

The UK will have to make compromises and trade-offs.

Gibraltar must ensure it retains a high profile among those who matter as the UK makes those policy choices.


Spain sees Brexit as an opportunity to enhance its standing in Europe. Their National Security Strategy is firmly directed towards this part of the World.

We regularly see how it attempts to exert control over the Strait and BGTW as part of its National Maritime Security Strategy – now using larger and more capable vessels.

Furthermore, Spain is striving to expand and strengthen the EU’s security remit, particularly in the Strait and in West Africa.

In addition to EU activities, Spain remains committed to NATO.

Our own bottom-line remains as it always has been.

It is right and proper that allies should cooperate on security matters, particularly on major global issues.

Moreover, it is good that the UK and Spain enjoy a positive and fruitful relationship.

However, that positive and fruitful relationship should be reflected in the way in which Spain operates in this area and in how they behave towards Gibraltar generally.

We will continue to encourage our friends in the UK to be strong in our neighbourhood and strong in other theatres.

We will do our bit to ensure that this is so.

Gibraltar has, after all, been a military base for over three hundred years.

We know who our friends are.