Spain on Friday took over from Britain command of a European Union maritime mission that combats piracy off the coast of Somalia as Britain’s planned departure from the bloc nears.
Spanish vice-admiral Antonio Martorell relieved British major general Charlie Strickland as commander of the so-called “Operation Atalanta” during a solemn ceremony held at the Rota naval base in southern Spain, where US troop are also stationed.
The ceremony was held on the day Britain was originally set to leave the European Union. British lawmakers voted down an unpopular divorce deal for a third time on Friday.
“It is honestly a sad day for the UK … but it is an exciting day for Spain,” Strickland said during the ceremony.
“Atalanta is so much more than ships in the Indian Ocean and aircraft in the skies. Atalanta is a sophisticated multilayered operation using hard and soft power to continue to suppress piracy and to take a powerful role in the broader security architecture of this key region of the world.”
The European Council announced in July that it would transfer the headquarters of Atalanta which employs 101 people from Northwood outside of London to Rota.
The operation’s headquarters is just one of the European institutions which Britain is losing as a result of its impending EU exit.