Gibraltar criticises Madrid after Spanish naval vessel incursion

Rising political tensions between the United Kingdom and Spain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar have been dismissed as a storm in a teacup and a distraction from real post-Brexit issues. The Sun headlined its story "Spain gets a Brexocet", in a reference to the Exocet missiles used during the Falklands war.

The British Conservative Party leader, Lord Michael Howardin, claimed that the United Kingdom would be prepared to go to war to defend "The Rock". The 10-week conflict, in which the British were ultimately victorious, left more than 900 dead.

"Thirty-five years ago this week, another woman prime minister sent a task force halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country", Howard told Sky News.

But on Monday, a spokesman for prime minister Theresa May made it clear she would not distance herself from the comments.

Gibraltar is a self-governing territory in all matters except foreign policy and defence, which are dealt with by the United Kingdom government.

"Gibraltar is going to be very prosperous and very successful and entirely British before, during and after Brexit". Here's what's going on.

Gibraltar's leader scolded EU Council President Donald Tusk on Monday for giving Spain a right of veto over the future relationship between the British enclave and the EU. And Spain really wants it back.

A clause in the EU's response to the British decision to invoke Article 50 says Gibraltar could be excluded from trade deals if Spain does not agree the territory's status.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisted there will be no change to Gibraltar's sovereignty without consent. Spain has long sought to regain control of the strategic territory that it has longed to reclaim since ceding its control to Britain in 1713.

Still, the roughly 30,000 Gibraltarians, many of whom commute across the border into Spain for work, voted in similarly overwhelming numbers to remain in the European Union - about 96 percent in the June 2016 Brexit referendum.

Spain has a history of putting pressure on Gibraltar's tiny land border on which the territory depends for many of its supplies, tourists and workers.

Spain's prime minister didn't mention Gibraltar, a source of heightened tension between Madrid and London.

"We have a firm commitment to ensure that the sovereignty and the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar are protected", he said.

"Now that the United Kingdom is not in the European Union, then the European Union will now defend its members' interests", he said.

Over the years Spain has been persistent in its protests of the U.K.'s 300-year-old rule of Gibraltar, which voted to remain in the European Union in a 2002 referendum. Indeed, those fears seem to have been justified.

"Incursions are a violation of sovereignty, not a threat to it", the UK Government spokesman added.

A columnist from the Sun deployed a famous Winston Churchill line, writing, "We are only just into these Brexit negotiations and to be honest I have already gone from jaw-jaw to war-war".

  • Zachary Reyes