A DISPLAY by the Red Arrows over Menorca has been cancelled at the last minute amid claims that Spanish authorities had blocked the team from performing in Gibraltar.
The decision, by UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, came as the RAF crews were gearing up and the planes were being fuelled on the runway in the En Caragol area of Sant Lluís.
Both the Spanish Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earlier objected to the planned performance over Gibraltar, labelling it an ‘act of provocation’ as it would entail RAF Hawk jets entering Spanish airspace.
Spain refuses to recognise that Gibraltar has either airspace or territorial waters, especially not for military purposes.
It therefore considered it impossible for the Red Arrows to perform without violating Spanish airspace.
The reasoning caused outrage in the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), since the team were due to perform later in the Balearics in Spanish airspace.
MoD sources told The Sun the Spanish authorities were being ‘dicks’ about the Gibraltar show.
They revealed that Spain had threatened to ban inbound civilian flights to Gibraltar from using Malaga as their designated diversion airport during the airshow if it went ahead.
The decision would have seen flights to the Rock needing to take on more fuel in order to reach a more distant emergency airport.
In turn this would have hit airlines with increased costs, potentially reducing flights to Gibraltar and hurting the peninsula’s economy.
Gibraltar officials, facing an upcoming election, took the threat seriously and requested the Ministry of Defence to cancel the show.
The spat prompted Shapps to make a tit-for-tat cancellation of Tuesday’s show in Menorca.
A defence source is quoted as saying: “It’s totally hypocritical. Spain were happy for the Red Arrows to perform in Menorca, to boost that island’s economy, but not on Gibraltar.
“They can’t have their paella and eat it.”
The Red Arrows have managed to perform in Gibraltar just twice in the last 30 years, the last time in 2009.
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