Royal Navy ships have been deployed in response to the incident, which was described as a “foolish game” by a spokesperson for the government of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory. The incident comes amid UK-Spanish tensions over Gibraltar which have reached a fever-pitch as the 29 March date for Brexit approaches.

The crew of a Spanish warship has ordered commercial vessels to leave Gibraltar waters, a spokesman for the government of the UK overseas territory said on Sunday, accusing the Spanish ship of trying to take “executive action” against the commercial vessels.

“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. It seems there are still some in the Spanish navy who think they can flout international law,” The Guardian quoted an unnamed spokesman as saying.

He added that the after being challenged by the Royal Navy ships which were deployed in response to the incident, the Spanish warship “sailed slowly along the Gibraltar coast with its weapons uncovered and manned”.

The spokesman pointed out that the Gibraltar government is “verifying every aspect of the incident in order to ensure that appropriate action is taken as soon as possible”.

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