THE SPANISH ambassador to the UK, Federico Trillo, has been summoned to the Foreign Office following the latest incursion by a Spanish ship into British territorial waters off Gibraltar.
Europe Minister David Lidington said the activities of the Spanish state research ship – Angeles Alvariño – and its accompanying Guardia Civil vessel yesterday were not only “unlawful” but also dangerous.
Mr Lidington said: “According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the waters around Gibraltar are indisputably British territorial waters, under United Kingdom sovereignty, in which only the United Kingdom has the right to exercise jurisdiction.
“Her Majesty’s Government takes a grave view of any attempt by Spain to exert authority or control within British Gibraltar territorial waters and considers such incursions as a violation of our sovereignty.
“I strongly condemn this provocative incursion and urge the Spanish government to ensure that it is not repeated.
“Her Majesty’s Government will continue to take whatever action we consider necessary to uphold British sovereignty and the interests of Gibraltar, its people, its security and economy.”
This latest development adds to the already complicated relationship between Britain and Spain, after the sinking of concrete blocks last year for Gibraltar’s artificial reef project.
Spain complained that these blocks would cause problems for their fishing industry, and shortly afterwards imposed strict controls at the border with Gibraltar.
Britain and Gibraltar argued that these checks were politically motivated but the European Commission ruled that the border checks had not infringed any European law.
Britain lodged a previous formal complaint to Spanish authorities in November last year, after a diplomatic bag was opened by police at the border with Gibraltar.
The British Foreign Office said at the time that diplomatic bags were ‘inviolable’, and to open one was a ‘serious infringement’ of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.