Blair and Aznar renewed their push for pro-business reforms within the European Union yesterday.
The relations between Spain and the United Kingdom have never been better and our already close ties will continue to strengthen, said Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar at a combined press conference in Madrid yesterday. Blair could not have arrived in Madrid at a worse moment, with the issue of the broken down Royal Navy submarine Tireless in Gibraltar making banner headlines in all the Spanish media yesterday. The Spanish Foreign Secretary was allegedly demanding a full report of the safety aspect of the repair of the Hunter-Killer submarine which has been moored at The Rock since the start of the summer. But it appears that a new-found friendship between Spain and Britain knows no boundaries and the two prime ministers were not going to let the issue dog their meeting. Next week technicians from our Nuclear Security Council will be meeting with their British counterparts to discuss repair work on the Tireless, a similar meeting already took place last week. The Tireless is completely safe and the British government has informed us of all the repair work which is taking place, it represents no safety risk, said Jose Maria Aznar. His comments were echoed by Tony Blair. I understand that the Spanish people are concerned, this is a very delicate issue, but let me assure you the submarine is indeed safe. The reactor's been closed down, so there is no risk. We are working closely with Spain, the problem has been identified and we expect that the repaired Tireless will leave in May. What you must realise is that similar repairs which are being undertaken to the Tireless are also being carried out on similar submarines at British yards. Aznar and Blair were pressed on the issue of whether Spanish engineers will be allowed to board the vessel. They both dodged the question and said there was no need. The Spanish Prime Minister said that he understood Britain's position and said that having a broken submarine was not an issue of national pride. I would prefer to be sitting here talking about the Yellow Submarine, Aznar joked. It has appeared that Blair was heading for a showdown meeting with the Spanish prime minister, with opposition groups calling for the Tireless to be sent back to Britain to be repaired, either under its own power or by transporter.