Caption: The Spanish vessel Infanta Eelena is pictured close to Europa Point during an incursion yesterday.
Photo by David Parody
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested paintballing Spanish vessels that trespass in British Gibraltar territorial waters, in response to a hike in the number of incursions last year.
According to The Sun, Mr Williamson made the proposal during a recent Ministry of Defence meeting with military chiefs.
Mr Williamson’s aides confirmed he had made the proposals as well as a second suggestion of sending a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to the Spanish territory of Ceuta, the newspaper said.
But they insisted the paintball suggestion was just meant as a joke and he had no serious intention that they actually carry it out.
An MoD spokesman told the publication: “While the Defence Secretary was speaking in jest about paintballing Spanish ships, he is in favour of the Royal Navy taking a strong stand against Spanish incursions into sovereign British waters”.
The comments followed a significant increase in the number of incursions by Spanish state vessels into Gibraltar waters from 541 in 2017 to 816 in 2018.
According to a Convent spokesman, there are a number of reasons why this number may have increased including increased Spanish activity to tackle illegal migration, an increase in counter smuggling activity and vessels not using their navigational lights at night on these operations.
“The Royal Navy challenges all incursions into Gibraltar’s waters,” the spokesman added.
“Incursions are a violation of sovereignty, not a threat to it.”