HMS Sabre repelled Spanish vessels from waters off the Gibraltar last week.
A spokesperson for the FCO said:
“The Royal Navy challenges all incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, and did so on this occasion. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office backs this up by making formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish government.”
— Michael J Sanchez (@key2med) May 19, 2018
— Raymond Risso (@rafgibraltar1) May 19, 2018
A spokesman for Spain’s foreign ministry denied the illegal incursion, saying the ship was in fact in Spain’s own territorial waters. Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reportedly moved to reassure Gibraltarians that the territory will remain under British control when the UK leaves the European Union.
Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated Britain “remains steadfastly committed” to its support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy.
Late last year, the Royal Navy were forced to chase off a Spanish vessel this morning as it cut across the path of a visiting US Naval vessel in Gibraltar.
The USNS Carson City is a Spearhead class expeditionary fast transport, currently in service with the Military Sealift Command.
The American naval vessel was the result of an effort to design a high-speed, shallow draft vessel intended for rapid intratheatre transport of medium-sized cargo payloads. In addition, last May a Spanish patrol boat reportedly tried to “hassle” an American nuclear submarine attempting to dock at Gibraltar.
According to multiple sources, flares were fired across the bow of the Spanish Guardia Civil vessel Rio Cedena in mid-April as it twice attempted to sail across the front of the American ballistic missile submarine USS Florida.
The USS Florida, a 20,000 ton Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, was commissioned in 1983 with the hull designation of SSBN-728; with her conversion to a cruise missile submarine, she was re-designated SSGN-728. She carriers 154 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Guardia Civil launch Rio Cedeña attempted to cross in front of the submarine but was stopped by the actions the Royal Navy’s HMS Sabre and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, which manoeuvred in close, according to an eyewitness as reported by ‘The Chronicle’.
— Michael J Sanchez (@key2med) September 6, 2017
This comes despite Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis saying Spain will not seek to regain sovereignty over Gibraltar in Brexit talks.
“I won’t make an agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom conditional on recovering sovereignty over Gibraltar. We will try to convince the Gibraltarians that this is a route worth exploring and that it would benefit them too.”
A former Ministry of Defence adviser saying that Royal Navy warships should be sent to Gibraltar to ‘protect it from Spain’ while Britain negotiates a deal to leave the European Union.
Writing in Conservative Homes, Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies said:
“First and foremost, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Michael Fallon, and David Davis should make a joint visit to Gibraltar as soon as possible.
The Ministry of Defence should also make a grand gesture by increasing the Royal Navy’s visible presence in Gibraltar. This would send an important message to the Gibraltarians.
The UK needs to prepare for the worse. This could include maintaining a robust air bridge if the land border is closed. Also, in the event of a border closure by Spain, the UK must be prepared to respond with appropriate, firm, and proportionate measures against Madrid.”
The Spanish government had called for joint sovereignty over Gibraltar after the UK decided to leave the European Union.
95.9% of ‘The Rock’s’ 30,000 population voted overwhelmingly for staying in the EU.
Speaking on national radio, Spain’s Foreign Minister said:
“It’s a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignty – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock – is much closer than before.”