Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, Spain has ramped its rhetoric surrounding the territory of Gibraltar, a sliver of land that has been in British hands for centuries but to which Spain continues to claim sovereignty.
Earlier this month, the acting foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, threatened to “put up the flag” on the Rock, hinting at a Spanish takeover.
Britain warned Spain on Monday that it was prepared to take legal action to force it to abandoned tighter border controls near Gibraltar in what was described as an “unprecedented” step against a European ally.
Earlier in the day, the British warship HMS Westminster set sail for the British enclave as part of an annual military exercise in the Mediterranean while Spain’s El País newspaper reported that the government in Madrid might enlist its former colony Argentina at the United Nations to contest Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
In part of its ongoing dispute with the Spanish government over the sovereignty status of Gibraltar, Spain’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Federico Trillo-Figueroa, was summoned to the Foreign Office before the weekend for what was undoubtedly a heated exchange.
The redress was in reaction to a recent naval incident wherein a civilian vessel from Gibraltar was almost seized by the Armada Española and Spanish customs officials, were it not for the intervention of the Royal Gibraltar Police.
Europe Minister David Lidington explained on Thursday that Britain had “repeatedly made diplomatic protests to Spain over attempts by Spanish state authorities to exercise jurisdiction in British Gibraltar territorial waters.” He condemned Spain’s “provocative incursions” and urged its government “to ensure that they are not repeated.”
In Foreign Policy this month, it was hinted that, along with the Falkland Islands, the tiny peninsular of Gibraltar, located on the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula, may become a high-profile case for sovereignty discussion between Britain and a foreign power, in this case, Spain.