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'Send the navy to protect Gib from Spain during Brexit'

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'Send the navy to protect Gib from Spain during Brexit'
Photo: AFP
12:55 CEST+02:00
A former MOD adviser has called on the Royal Navy to boost its presence in Gibraltar to protect it from Spain during Brexit negotiations.

Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation said the British government “must now take steps to safeguard the Rock's interests during the UK's Article 50 negotiations with the European Union (EU).”

Spain was swift to propose a joint-sovereignty agreement in the wake of the shock referendum result in June.

Spain's foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo insisted that Spain could work with Britain to strike an.agreement “to solve the situation of Gibraltar and allow it to keep its access to the EU's single market.”

The suggestion was promptly rejected by the Gibraltarian and UK governments.

But in the op-ed published on Conservative Home, Coffey argued that the government of new British Prime Minister Theresa May must do more.

“Other than issue the obligatory statements from the Foreign Office, the Government has done little to reassure those living on the Rock that their interests will be safeguarded,” said the former special adviser to the MOD.

He called on a joint visit by the most important figures in Brexit negotiations. “Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Michael Fallon, and David Davis should make a joint visit to Gibraltar as soon as possible. To show that this is an issue of national importance, members of the Shadow Cabinet and representatives from other political parties in Westminster should be invited to join as well.”

“The Ministry of Defence should also make a grand gesture by increasing the Royal Navy's visible presence in Gibraltar,” said Coffey. “This would send an important message to the Gibraltarians.”

He warned: “The UK needs to prepare for the worse. This could include maintaining a robust air bridge if the land border is closed.

“Also, in the event of a border closure by Spain, the UK must be prepared to respond with appropriate, firm, and proportionate measures against Madrid.

“It must be made crystal clear to Spain that there will be a cost to pay for reckless behaviour,” he said.

Gibraltar was fiercely against Brexit, with 96 percent of Gibraltarians voting to remain in the EU.

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