The Red Arrows have been axed from a display over Gibraltar amid claims of pressure from the Spanish government.
Madrid was reportedly furious about Britain’s aerobatics display team flying over the British Overseas Territory. Spain is believed to have objected to the planned visit late last week as it would have meant the Royal Air Force (RAF) Hawk fast jets in Spanish airspace.
A Red Arrows display over the Balearic island of Menorca scheduled for Wednesday (September 26) has also been called off. The team was expected to travel from there to Gibraltar, according to local media.
The cancellation fuelled speculation locally that the Menorca display was scrapped because of Spanish government pressure over the Gibraltar event.
Express.co.uk understands Spain would likely have seen the passage of fast jets in its airspace as a provocation as such aircraft from other countries cannot usually fly over its territory.
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It is understood the request to cancel the display over the Rock came from the Gibraltarian authorities.
The team’s famous red, white and blue trails were last seen over Gibraltar in September 2009, with thousands flocking to admire one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams, despite objections from Spain.
News website, Majorca Daily Bulletin, reported a statement issued on Monday (September 25) by the Spanish government, which read: “Unfortunately, we are required to cancel the Red Arrows display planned for tomorrow in Minorca (Menorca).
“The organisation of international airshows is hugely complex and on this occasion unforeseen circumstances have arisen that mean the airshow cannot take place tomorrow.
“We are hugely grateful to the Minorcan authorities for their support on the preparations and we sincerely regret the short notice of this cancellation. We hope the Red Arrows can return another time.”
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A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “As part of operational planning, a variety of potential display dates and locations are considered by the RAF. A wide range of factors influence whether these are able to proceed.”
The cancellations come amid protracted talks between Gibraltar, Britain, Spain and the European Union to resolve the territory’s Brexit border issue.
The overseas territory left the EU when Britain exited, but a hard border between Gibraltar and Spain threatens to not only choke the Gibraltar economy but also put at risk the jobs of 15,000 people who cross the border for work.
One solution put forward is for Gibraltar to join the EU’s Schengen area, but the EU insists Spain would then be in charge of the border, which Gibraltarians oppose.
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Madrid also refuses to give London the freedom to carry on using the Rock’s port and airport for military purposes without restrictions.
Tensions have also escalated because of a row over the waters around the Rock, which Spain claims.
A row erupted last month between the leader of Gibraltar and a Spanish mayor about who has sovereignty over the waters surrounding the territory.
Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said the sea around the Rock is “exclusively British” while the Spanish mayor of nearby Algeciras, José Ignacio Landaluce, denied it, demanding the territory stop harassing his country’s vessels.
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