Spanish gunship in illegal incursion into British waters off Gibraltar

Spain's foreign minister has called on British politicians not to lose their temper after a Brexit-fueled dispute over a tiny outcrop of land escalated into talk of war.

Gibraltar is a strategic British territory located at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea on the southern tip of Spain's Iberian Peninsula with an area of 6.7 square kilometers.

It comes a day after Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis told the United Kingdom not to "lose tempers" after the EU Brexit negotiation guidelines effectively gave Spain significant power over Gibraltar's future.

Tensions are high following draft EU negotiating guidelines circulated by European Council president Donald Tusk, which indicated Madrid would be given a veto over the British overseas territory's participation in a future deal.

In 1982, the United Kingdom and Argentina fought a ten-week war over the Falklands in the South Atlantic which left hundreds of casualties. British Prime Minister Theresa May has begun a visit to Jordan where she is to announce plans to send more British military trainers to help the kingdom's air force in the fight against Islamic State extremists. Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis noted "The Spanish government is a little surprised by the tone of the comments coming out of Britain, a country known for its composure".

A parliamentary committee said on Tuesday that British Prime Minister Theresa May must prove that "no deal is better than a bad deal" by offering an economic assessment on the impact of leaving the European Union with no agreement.

Some commentators have speculated that the failure to mention the Rock was interpreted in Brussels as a sign that the UK's resolve to stand up for Gibraltar is not as strong as it might be.

Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have moved to reassure the people of Gibraltar that the territory will remain under British control.

"I think the position of the [UK] government is very, very clear, and that is the sovereignty of Gibraltar is unchanged and it's not going to change, and it can not conceivably change without the express support and consent of the people of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom", he said.

PM spoke with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar today about our continuing support for Gibraltar as we leave the EU.

The United Nations defines it as "non-self-governing territory", a special status that means it is administered by Britain but is not formally part of it.

The clause means that Spain, which will still be a member of the European Union when Britain leaves, could potentially block Gibraltar's access to a trade accord negotiated between the bloc and London.

While the FCO language was reasonably robust in describing it as an unlawful incursion, United Kingdom diplomats have been generally relaxed about such incidents, not seeing them as a threat that undermines the UK's legal claim of British sovereignty over Gibraltar.

But residents also voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union in last year's Brexit vote, with 96% voting to remain in the union.

  • Zachary Reyes