Spain denies ship made illegal incursion off Gibraltar


He told the MailOnline: 'Spanish Patrol Boat P77 (Infanta Christina) this afternoon made an incursion into Gibraltar territorial waters and was challenged by the Royal Navy's HMS Scimitar.

"Gibraltar's sovereignty has not changed, it will not change and can not change without the consent of the people of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom".

Britain's exit process from the European Union only formally began last week, but already London is engaged in a heated dispute with Brussels and Spain over the future sovereignty of its overseas territory of Gibraltar.

British rhetoric quickly heated up after the EU's Brexit negotiating guidelines released on Friday included a section saying Spain must have a say on any future trade deal involving Gibraltar.

The unexpected row, which comes less than a week into official Brexit negotiations, erupted on a Sunday morning political TV show when former Conservative leader Lord Howard reacted angrily to the EU's draft proposal that Spain get a veto on Gibraltar matters during Brexit negotiations.

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Some 10 thousand persons go to work daily in Gibraltar, that depends on its small land border with Spain to trade and receive visitors and workers.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "Whilst the Government seems exercised by the return of blue passports and imperial measures, it is some relief that Mrs May seems to be ruling out sending a gunboat to Gibraltar".

The Spanish naval incursion follows the country's foreign minister Alfonso Dastis telling the United Kingdom to calm down after former Tory leader Lord Howard suggested Prime Minister Theresa May might be ready to go to war to keep Gibraltar British.

Dastis said the Spanish government was "surprised" by the tone of the comments.

In the days since the letter's publication, the governments of Britain and Gibraltar reacted strongly to the EU's concession to Spain, which is an European Union member. Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis responded to the furor Monday by urging the British government to calm down.

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But nearly everyone (99% of people living in Gibraltar) said they didn't want that to happen, so Gibraltar remains a part of Britain.

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

President of the European Council Donald Tusk has been likened to a "cuckolded husband" by Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo.

"You're dealing with 27 countries with their own specific and peculiar interests in particular economic sectors, and they'll all have issues", said Anand Menon, director of the group a Changing Europe.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called Picardo on Sunday morning to say that the United Kingdom remained "steadfastly committed to our support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy", and that she would defend the "freely and democratically expressed wishes" of its residents that had made their desire to remain part of Britain clear.

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But they also wanted the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union because they feared if the United Kingdom voted to leave, Spain would immediately try to reassert its claim to Gibraltar.