ROYAL Navy warships should be sent to Gibraltar to ‘protect it from Spain’ while Britain negotiates a deal to leave the European Union, a former Ministry of Defence special advisor has said.
Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, said the step was essential in fending off Madrid’s bid for joint sovereignty.
The fears erupted more than a month after British voters backed the Brexit leave campaign to axe ties with the EU.
But Gibraltar’s 30,000 residents have voted on numerous occasions to remain a British Overseas Territory, with an overwhelming 96 per cent voting Remain in June’s EU referendum.
Now, Mr Coffey said the UK must act to safeguard the territory – known as The Rock – from Spain and reassure its residents who remain anxious about the outcome of the Brexit vote.
Writing in Conservative Homes, Mr Coffey said: ‘First and foremost, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Michael Fallon, and David Davis should make a joint visit to Gibraltar as soon as possible.
‘The Ministry of Defence should also make a grand gesture by increasing the Royal Navy’s visible presence in Gibraltar.
‘This would send an important message to the Gibraltarians.’
In the wake of the Brexit vote, Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo called on the UK to share sovereignty of Gibraltar – something that Westminster snubbed.
Accusing Spain of ‘anachronistic behaviour’, Mr Coffey added: ‘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.’
As of yet there has been no formal word from the MoD about Mr Coffey’s remarks.