Spain and the United Kingdom are negotiating an agreement on security and defense as a fundamental piece of the new stage of cooperation that they want to open once Brexit is consummated, last day 1. Said agreement, according to Spanish diplomatic sources, will include the fight against jihadism, cyber defense or joint military missions; but also “confidence measures” on the British base of Gibraltar, a source of continuous friction between the two kingdoms.
The United Kingdom is, together with France, the main European military power, possessing its own nuclear force and a seat on the UN Security Council, but, by decision of London, the EU withdrawal agreement sealed the Last December 24, it didn’t include any chapter on foreign policy and defense, which leaves a wide scope for bilateral cooperation.
Discarded, at least for the moment, the European forum (where the United Kingdom was never a very active partner, but rather the opposite), military cooperation with London is now limited to the framework of the Atlantic Alliance, to which both countries belong. . In the bilateral field, military agreements with London are extremely rare: a 1985 exchange of letters on cooperation in defense material and equipment and an agreement on the exchange of classified information in 2015.
The reality, however, goes far beyond this brief legal framework: the British company BAE Systems is a key partner of the Eurofighter combat aircraft, the largest weapons program in which Spain participates; and Rolls-Royce is, while it does not materialize its intention to get rid of it, the owner of ITP, the main Spanish motor company.
The aim is to sign an ambitious agreement that covers all fields of cooperation in defense matters: the fight against jihadism, cyber defense or the carrying out of joint military missions.
An agreement of this type with the United Kingdom cannot, however, ignore the existence of the Gibraltar military base. The presence of this base in southern Spain has been the subject of continuous friction in the past, the most important of which was when the Tireless nuclear submarine docked in the British colony for a year, between May 2000 and May 2001, to be repaired from a serious breakdown, which caused great concern in the area and strong diplomatic tensions.
Spain maintains restrictions on the British base, so that ships that dock there cannot do so, immediately before or after, in any Spanish port. Except for an emergency, military aircraft going to Gibraltar are not allowed to pass through Spanish airspace either.
Spain receives information from the British submarines heading to Gibraltar through NATO, but there is no direct communication between the respective Defense ministries.
The objective is for the future agreement to include “confidence measures” regarding the use of the Gibraltar base, which “avoid friction that has occurred regularly in the past,” according to Spanish diplomatic sources. All this within the framework of the new climate generated by the agreement reached on the 31st between the governments of London and Madrid (with the approval of the Gibraltarian authorities) so the Rock (Gibraltar)is incorporated into the European Schengen borderless area and Spain becomes In charge, with the support of the Frontex agency, of controlling the entrance through the port and airport of the colony.