Defence secretary Gavin Williamson suggests scaring Spanish ships away from Gibraltar with paintballs

Will MetcalfeContributor
Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson who suggested the Navy fire paintballs in a bid to ‘humiliate’ Spanish ships straying into British waters.
Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson who suggested the Navy fire paintballs in a bid to ‘humiliate’ Spanish ships straying into British waters.

Military chiefs have been left stunned after the defence secretary suggested the Royal Navy fire PAINTBALLS at Spanish ships that stray into Gibraltar’s waters, according to reports.

According to the Sun, Gavin Williamson made the claims during a meeting with senior Ministry of Defence officials during which he reportedly suggested sending a Type 45 destroyer to the Spanish territory of Ceuta, on the Moroccan coast.

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Its claimed Mr Williamson has been dubbed ‘Private Pike’ after the hapless Dad’s Army character, and the 42-year-old is claimed to have made the shock proposals during his regular Monday afternoon meeting with top brass in December.

Mr Williamson believes firing the paintballs would humiliate ships that stray into British waters, and hopefully halt the growth of incursions by Spanish state vessels which grew from 541 in 2017 to 816 last year – more than two a day.

The number of incursions into British waters by Spanish ships has risen to 816 in the past year, more than two a day. (PA)
The number of incursions into British waters by Spanish ships has risen to 816 in the past year, more than two a day. (PA)

However, despite his best intentions the suggestion left Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter rolling his eyes in front of him.

A senior military source told The Sun: “Gavin Williamson comes up with some pretty off the wall things, but firing paintballs at the Spanish Navy beats the lot of them.

“It was an excruciating moment when everyone in the room realised he was deadly serious. Private Pike strikes again.

“Nick Carter just rolled his eyes and said, ‘We’ll come up with some options minister”, but everybody knew he wouldn’t. It’s properly potty.”

The chiefs had earlier managed to talk out Mr Williamson from sending a destroyer to Ceuta in tit for tat revenge as a too provocative a move that could lead to conflict.

A report in the Sun said Mr Williamson’s aides last night confirmed he had made both proposals.

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 said: “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 Government of Gibraltar’s count of the number of Spanish incursions is even higher, as it also counts potentially innocent passages through UK waters without permission.

It registered almost more than 1,800 last year.

The incursions counted are either by Spanish navy ships, Guardia Civil vessels or state customs boats.

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