MEP calls for Royal visit to Gibraltar amid tension
A South West MEP has called for Gibraltar to receive a high profile Royal visit as tensions escalate amid a Royal Navy stand off with Spanish fishermen.
UKIP's William Dartmouth said 2013 marked the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht which gives the Rock British sovereignty.
His suggestion that a Royal visit would hammer home the point came as the Royal Navy and Plymouth-based Royal Marines had to deal with Spanish fishermen who made an illegal incursion into British waters around Gibraltar.
"Nothing could demonstrate more to the citizens of Gibraltar how strongly Britain stands behind them in wishing to stay part of the United Kingdom that a visit by a member of the Royal family," said Lord Dartmouth, MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar.
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"I am delighted that the British Government has sent a naval task force to Gibraltar headed by HMS Bulwark and Montrose from their Devonport base.
"It is now three hundred years since the Treaty of Utrecht placed Gibraltar under British rule and it would be wonderful if it could be commemorated by a Royal visit", he said.
Lord Dartmouth added: "The very fact that a British Prime Minister has had to go cap in hand to the European Commission to ask Spain to stop it's border harassment's shows just how toothless this once proud nation has become.
"When it comes to the point when we have to ask someone else to protect our interests we have obviously fallen a long way," he said.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said there were no immediate plans for the Queen or any senior members of the Royal family to pay a visit to Gibraltar.
However, tensions have continued to mount at the overseas territory, which today will be the subject of a visit by Conservative MEP Julie Girling, who last week was subject to an attack by so-called Twitter trolls over her support of constituents.
Meanwhile yesterday Royal Navy ships visiting the Rock en route to an exercise in the Mediterranean helped pushed back an incursion of Spanish fishermen.
The protesters – in a flotilla of around 40 fishing boats and a small number of pleasure craft – was "corralled" by Royal Gibraltar Police and military vessels after crossing from Spanish waters close to an artificial reef created by the government of the British Overseas Territory.
The reef is at the centre of a diplomatic row between Britain and Spain, which has seen Madrid introduce additional checks at the border in protest, leaving workers and tourists facing queues of up to five hours to get through.
Julie Girling, a Conservative MEP for Gibraltar, called the flotilla a "provocative attempt to stir things up yet again" by a government in Madrid facing allegations of corruption. "We need to find a way to make all this stop," she said. "This has been an extended period (of border controls) and people seem to be worried that with the difficulties the Spanish Government has at home they are not going to stop, they are going to keep pushing."