Gibraltar The Rock Aerial View Of Europa Point Sea Land Defence Imagery

Why Gibraltar Matters To The British Military

Gibraltar's Chief Minister says even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, an agreement can be made to continue free movement with Spain.

Gibraltar The Rock Aerial View Of Europa Point Sea Land Defence Imagery

Gibraltar is strategically placed for opposing threats (Picture: MOD)

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar has told Forces News that "Gibraltar can’t imagine itself without that relationship with all the Armed Forces", and that he hopes a "safety net" agreement can be made to continue free movement with Spain – even if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

Fabian Picardo has been giving evidence to the House of Lords European Union select committee.

It follows Theresa May's announcement that a protocol for the future of Gibraltar had been agreed in the negotiations with the EU.

However, it will only apply if a full deal is reached.

In response to the question on what would happen if the UK and Gibraltar left the EU with a no deal at all, Mr Picardo replied: "I think we’ve agreed enough of the substance of the practical arrangements between us, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Spain that we might seek to put in place some sort of safety net.

"What you might call, a ‘no-deal deal’ to protect those citizens who need to continue to exercise rights after the 29th March."

The Army has had a presence in Gibraltar for more than 300 years. 

The people of Gibraltar took up arms as the Gibraltar Volunteer Corps from 1915-1920 and again later as the Gibraltar Defence Force shortly before the Second World War.

It later became the Royal Gibraltar Regiment - which has remained the only formed Army unit in Gibraltar.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Arrives in Gibraltar
Spain has a long-standing territorial claim on Gibraltar, which has been held by the UK since 1713 and currently has the status of British Overseas Territory (Picture: MOD).

Mr Picardo said: "The relationship between Gibraltar and the Armed Forces is in our DNA.

"If you think of Gibraltar as this magnificent rock and then you understand that its actually been hollowed out by the work done by the Royal Engineers - so that you have the defences of Gibraltar available through the tunnels.

"This is what Gibraltar is all about and you can’t think of the British Armed Forces and you can’t think of the Royal Navy and not think of Gibraltar.

"And Gibraltar can’t imagine itself without that relationship with all the Armed Forces."

Due to the placement of the British territory, it's well situated to observe shipping channels through the waterway.

It could dominate the western entrance to the Mediterranean - if there was a war.

RAF C17 lands at RAF Gibraltar 120917
An RAF C-17 at RAF Gibraltar, during the relief effort following Hurricane Irma (Picture: MOD).

Mr Picardo says "Gibraltar has always been for signals intelligence, such an important place to gather information.

"That I think is only enhanced by the present geopolitical situation, if you look at what’s happening with Russia and other actors in the world, Gibraltar continues to be that strategic 1,500 miles up-theatre location that the UK has always been able to count on and will always be able to count on."

Gibraltar's communication systems, runway facilities and harbour further makes it an important base for NATO.

Despite a fall in numbers of RAF personnel in Gibraltar, Mr Picardo says the Royal Gibraltar Regiment is getting "stronger and stronger" while also adding that Gibraltar is "proud" of the regiment.

"The Regiment is just going from strength to strength, doing more and more for the UK as part of the British Armed Forces, as part of the British Army," he said.

"So although we may have seen a reduction of numbers in the RAF and the naval contingency in Gibraltar, we’re seeing the Royal Gibraltar Regiment continue to get stronger and stronger and I think that’s a demonstration of the commitment from the British Armed Forces to Gibraltar."