Thursday, September 29, 2005

Trenchant departure leaves political quarrel in its wake

Nuclear sub controversy

Nuclear submarine visits continue to be a sensitive subject in the region and has provoked the latest cross-border row between Chief Minister Peter Caruana and the Spanish Government delegate in Andalusia Juan Jose Lopez Garzon.

Reacting to earlier remarks by Sr Garzon that Spain was negotiating a written assurance from Britain to limit the visit of nuclear vessels to the Rock, Mr Caruana said there was “no truth” to that statement. Mr Caruana said:

“The British Government has confirmed to the Gibraltar Government that there is no truth to that statement and that HMG would not contemplate any such agreement.”

Speaking to the Chronicle a Convent Place spokesman said:

“The Gibraltar Government takes note of Sr Garzon’s statement that ‘the UK and Spanish Governments are negotiating a formal agreement to limit nuclear submarine visits to Gibraltar to emergency situations only.’

Nuclear submarine visits to Gibraltar are a matter for UK and Gibraltar. Visits for operational or recreational purposes are welcome by the Gibraltar Government. But in any case, the complaints emanating from some quarters in Spain about HMS Trenchant’s visit are completely irrational and incoherent given the use made of Spanish ports by nuclear powered submarines and ships.

It may be that this gentleman (Spanish Government’s Delegate to Andalucia) is confused between visits and repairs.

To our knowledge, it is not the position of the present Spanish Government or any previous Spanish Government, that it is opposed to visits by nuclear submarines. It is therefore not clear why he thinks the Spanish Government would want or need such an agreement. We welcome HMG’s confirmation that the use of Gibraltar by British and allied nuclear powered warships is not the subject of any negotiations for an agreement between UK and Spain.

However the Gibraltar Government continues to support the provision of information about visits and reassurances about safety to the Spanish Government on the basis of good neighbourliness.”

Nuclear Sub ‘fuels’ more debate in Spain

The Royal Navy submarine HMS Trenchant slipped quietly out of port yesterday morning, but left in its wake a lingering political controversy.

The submarine’s routine four-day visit re-ignited Spanish concerns over visits by British nuclear powered submarines to the Rock. Since its arrival in Gibraltar last Saturday, politicians and environmentalists in Spain have voiced clear opposition to the presence of HMS Trenchant here.

The central government’s representative in Andalusia, Juan José López Garzón, said in Seville this week that he was confident the Foreign Affairs Ministry (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores MAE) would continue seeking written assurances from the UK that submarines would only call at Gibraltar for humanitarian reasons or in emergencies.

Others, particularly opposition politicians, were less accepting and sharply criticised the visit.

The Spanish government confirmed early this week that it had been informed of the submarine’s call prior to its arrival.

Commander H D Beard Royal Navy - Captain of HMS Trenchant
Spanish newspapers in the region have given ample coverage to the arrival of HMS Trenchant and the political sniping that it generated. But they all missed one interesting, if largely insignificant, detail. According to the Royal Navy’s official website, the submarine’s captain, Commander Hugh Beard, started his career as a submariner on board HMS Tireless, a vessel with which critics of these visits are all too familiar.

Related Articles:

28 September 2005 - FCO responds to submarine comments made by Spanish Government representatives

28 September 2005 - Spain declares war on nuclear vessels in Gibraltar - but not in Spain!

28 September 2005 - Juarez criticises lack of 'home' info on Submarine arrival

27 September 2005 - Nuclear powered submarine HMS Trenchant visits Gibraltar

27 September 2005 - Spanish ecologists protest against docking of British nuclear submarine

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