Grant Shapps axed a Red Arrows air display over a Spanish island amid a furious row with Madrid over Gibraltar, sources claim.
The Royal Air Force’s aerobatics team had been expected to appear in the skies above the British Overseas Territory until the Spanish government forced the display to be scrapped.
In retaliation, Britain’s Defence Secretary cancelled a planned appearance in Menorca on Tuesday (September 26).
A source is quoted by The Sun as saying the Spanish were “being d***s” about the Gibraltar show.
They added the Spanish government had threatened to ban inbound civilian flights from using Malaga as a designated diversion airport.
The source said that would mean all planes to Gibraltar would need more fuel to get to an airport further away in an emergency.
They said this would mean more weight, more cost and possibly fewer flights to Gibraltar.
Officials in Gibraltar took the threat seriously enough to ask the Ministry of Defence to cancel the Gibraltar show, The Sun reports.
Mr Shapps went further and banned the Menorca appearance, with a defence source telling the same publication it was “totally hypocritical”.
They added: “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.”
News website, Majorca Daily Bulletin, reported a statement issued on Monday (September 25) by the Spanish government, which read: “Unfortunately, we are required to cancel the Red Arrows display planned for tomorrow in Minorca (Menorca).
“The organisation of international airshows is hugely complex and on this occasion unforeseen circumstances have arisen that mean the airshow cannot take place tomorrow.
“We are hugely grateful to the Minorcan authorities for their support on the preparations and we sincerely regret the short notice of this cancellation. We hope the Red Arrows can return another time.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “As part of operational planning, a variety of potential display dates and locations are considered by the RAF. A wide range of factors influence whether these are able to proceed.”