For some reason a spat has developed over Gibraltar. It maybe about fishing rights off of the Gibraltar coast, it may be that Spain is properly enforcing its borders against smuggling, or it may be that Spanish politicians are trying to divert the attention of their people away from the country's dire economic position.

But whatever the reason, it has made many people hot under the collar and led the UK PM, David Cameron, to publicly say that he is 'concerned'.

Now the Royal Navy is sailing a fleet of ships and marines on Monday including the light aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious into the Mediterranean, which is somehow being spun as a sort of reaction to this issue.

But it takes a long time to prepare and equip a force of this size (just look at how long it took the might of the US and coalition forces to get ready to free Kuwait from Iraq's grip).

So, as the Royal Navy says, this little jaunt has been long in the planning and is not connected to the Gibraltar affair. I'm not saying though that a little PR won't be made out of it and a few plans amended so as to put on a bit of a show of strength. But the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has now said that his country will take 'legal and proportional steps' in response, whatever that means. So you can see what a perceived change in defence stance can do diplomatically.

But here's the question. What if we had already adopted the half-baked LibDem plan for a part time nuclear deterrent? What if both the remaining ballistic submarines (SSBN) under this plan had been alongside for a few months but one was due to sail on Tuesday in accordance with a plan made months ago?

What would Madrid's reaction be? What would the EU reaction or indeed the UN reaction be?

Would this be seen as an escalation? A step too far?

HMS Vanguard by CPOA(Phot) Tam McDonald (Open Govt Licence)

HMS Vanguard by CPOA(Phot) Tam McDonald (Open Govt Licence)

If this was to occur and I was in Spain's shoes I would demand assurances from the UK as to the submarine's mission and might even demand a UN peacekeeping force be sent to Faslane Naval Base to stop the SSBN sailing and secure the nuclear release codes. Not that the UK would comply of course (one hopes), but the reduced nuclear deterrent would become an Achilles Heel, not a deterrent.

We do have a Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD) with an SSBN on patrol right now. But this has not even been mentioned with regard to the current squabble over the 'Rock' (except in a few comments in the online press of course) as it is just not of concern here.

But we do not need our nuclear deterrent becoming an unwanted diplomatic second front when trying to defend our interests, especially if we risk losing the initiative.

That's one reason for keeping and maintaining our full CASD capability.

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