With Brexit looming, Spain has ramped up its claims to Gibraltar. Its patrol boat ordered British vessels anchored there to abandon the enclave, forcing the Royal Navy to send an inflatable vessel to defuse the situation.
In an audio recording from Sunday that has been made public, a Spanish patrol ship, Tornado, tells two British vessels, the Ivor Accord and the Great Victory to “leave Spanish territorial waters.”
The port authority told the commercial vessels to ignore the orders and stay put.
“After being challenged by the Royal Navy, the Spanish warship sailed slowly along the Gibraltar coast with its weapons uncovered and manned.”
A spokesman for the Gibraltar government said the provocation “flouted international law” and highlighted “the extremism of some parts of the Spanish political spectrum.”
“There is only nuisance value to these foolish games being played by those who don’t accept unimpeachable British sovereignty over the waters around Gibraltar as recognised by the whole world in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the spokesman said.
Spanish military sources told the local media that the 94-meter military vessel did not violate any rules, insisting that all waters around the Rock, located at the southern tip of Iberia, belong to Spain.
Spain, which has increasingly disputed its status, has made the enclave a major negotiating obstacle during the Brexit talks. In the latest draft of the UK visa-free travel agreement that will come into force once Britain leaves the European Union, the territory is referred to as a British “colony” that is “subject to decolonisation.”