Gibraltar criticises Spain over naval incursion

A British Royal Navy patrol boat chased a Spanish warship out of Gibraltar's territorial waters in the latest spat between the United Kingdom and Spain over the disputed enclave's future after Brexit.

A Gibraltar government spokeswoman said: "The ship entered British/Gibraltarian territorial waters". It also posted a short video of the corvette.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713, but has long called for it to be returned.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Wednesday that Madrid's priorities in Brexit negotiations will be preserving citizens' rights and achieving a "broad and deep free trade agreement" between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Responding to the former Tory leader's comments in Madrid, Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis said: "The Spanish Government is a little surprised by the tone of comments regarding Gibraltar coming out of Britain, which is a country known for its composure".

The Union Jack, the Gibraltarian flag and the European Union flag are seen flying, at the border of Gibraltar with Spain, in front of the Rock in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain April 3, 2017.

Ron Westdorp, managing director of Gibraltar-based fund Taler Asset Management, said the line in the European Union draft which said Spain would have a veto on Gibraltar was not helpful.

He alluded to declarations of Michael Howard, who the eve affirmed that May was even ready to go to war to defend the sovereignty of the Rock, as it happened 35 years ago with the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), whose sovereignty reclaims Argentina.

A spokesman for the Gibraltar government told The Telegraph: "Today's illegal incursion by a Spanish naval vessel is a timely demonstration of the way in which Spain routinely conducts itself in breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea". The Spanish veto on the talks is completely against Ireland's interests, and we should be making that clear to our partners in no uncertain terms.

Still, according to Jonathan Eyal, associate director of the RUSI military think tank, "Brexit allows Spain to beef up its claim to have a say over Gibraltar".

"What we are doing with all European countries in the European Union is sitting down and talking to them".

Number 10 played down Lord Howard's suggestion the United Kingdom might send a taskforce to The Rock-"it isn't going to happen", said a spokesman-but refused to condemn him.

Gibraltar is highly unlikely to be a trigger for war, but resolving its status could be tricky - one of many complex issues that must be resolved within the two-year time limit for Brexit negotiations.

The prime minister dismissed Lord Howard of Lympne, a former Conservative leader, after he urged her to demonstrate the "same resolve" defending the sovereignty of the British Overseas Territory as Margaret Thatcher showed over the Falklands in 1982. "Let us be cool and carry on and not use too harsh language".

  • Leroy Wright