Spanish police boat enters British waters off Gibraltar before being escorted away by two Royal Navy vessels
- The Royal Navy descended upon the Rio Guadalete police boat on Thursday
- HMS Dasher, a P2000 Fast Patrol Boat, and a RHIB, rushed out to meet her
- British sailors shadowed Spaniards for 45 minutes before they made for home
- Comes amid tensions over the Rock amid an uncertain post-Brexit future
A Spanish police boat has been escorted out of British territorial waters after making a foray into the Bay of Gibraltar.
The Royal Navy descended on the Rio Guadalete police boat after she repeatedly ignored sovereignty warnings on Thursday.
HMS Dasher, a P2000 Fast Patrol Boat, and a RHIB (rigid inflatable boat) sped out to meet Guadalete and shadowed the Spaniards for around 45 minutes before they sailed for home.
An FCO spokesman said: ‘We have no doubt about UK sovereignty over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and protest incursions to the Spanish authorities.’
The Royal Navy intercepting a Spanish ship in Gibraltar on Thursday. HMS Dasher, a P2000 Fast Patrol Boat, and a RHIB (rigid inflatable boat) sped out to meet Guadalete and shadowed the Spaniards for around 45 minutes before they sailed for home
A Spanish police vessel is intercepted by the Royal Navy yesterday
The Spanish police vessel being shadowed by the Royal Navy on Thursday during the standoff
The tensions in the Bay come amid uncertainty over the Rock’s post-Brexit future.
Under Britain’s deal with the EU, Gibraltar joined the Schengen zone which allows for freedom movement of people.
But despite the agreement, the Spanish have infuriated the Gibraltarians by claiming they can have the final say over who gets to enter the British sovereign territory.
It prompted Chief minister Fabian Picardo to tersely declare ‘this is our land.’
The Spanish foreign ministry has insisted that EU customs officials will now police who enters Gibraltar because the UK has quit Schengen.
Boris Johnson has offered his ‘wholehearted welcome’ to the travel deal with Spain and underscored his commitment to preserving the protection of the interests of Gibraltar and its British sovereignty’.
Schengen covers most of the 27 EU members, along with Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
Gibraltar’s arrangement is to remain in place for an initial four-year period.
With a land area of just 2.6-square miles, Gibraltar is entirely dependent on imports to supply its 34,000 residents
Even when the UK was in the EU, it never joined Schengen, meaning passports were required to travel to EU member states.
With a land area of just 2.6-square miles, Gibraltar is entirely dependent on imports to supply its 34,000 residents.
A No Deal scenario would have slowed the cross-border movement of goods with new customs procedures.
Border fluidity is also key for some 15,000 people who cross into Gibraltar every day to work, accounting for half of the territory’s workforce. Most are Spanish and live in the impoverished neighbouring area of La Linea.
In the 2016 referendum, Gibraltar voted 96 per cent in favour of remaining in the EU.
Its status as a British overseas territory has always been a thorny issue and remains disputed by Madrid.
Gibraltar: Britain’s Rock on the Med since 1713
Gibraltar is a rocky 2.6-square mile peninsular just 10 miles from north Africa.
It was formally ceded in perpetuity to Britain in 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht which brought an end to the War of the Spanish Succession.
Named in Arabic ‘Jabal Tariq’, after the Muslim commander Tariq Ibn-Ziyad who turned the Rock into a fortress in 711, it has been an important naval base for more than 1,000 years.
That long maritime history explains its diverse population, with many residents of mixed Genoese, British, Spanish and Maltese descent.
Most Gibraltarians can speak both English and Spanish.
As a British overseas territory, it is home to a military garrison and has a naval base. But over the past few decades, the EU has sought to put pressure on London and Madrid to resolve its future status.
The Rock’s 2006 constitution stipulates that there can be no transfer of sovereignty to Spain against the wishes of its voters.
In a referendum in 2002, Gibraltarians resoundingly rejected the idea of joint sovereignty.
Free travel between Spain and Gibraltar was fully restored in 1985, but travellers continued to suffer delays at the border.
In late 2006, passenger flights between Spain and Gibraltar resumed for the first time in nearly 30 years, though seven years later there were renewed border checks by Spain in response to a Gibraltarian plan to build an artificial reef.
The 2006 air link was restored after Gibraltar, Spain and Britain signed agreements aimed at improving living conditions on the Rock.
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