The Spanish Armada (Armada Española) has been harassing merhant ships in Gibraltar waters, according to the British Overseas Territory’s government.
Two vessels, the Ivor Accord and the Great Victory, were anchored well within Gibraltarian waters awaiting instructions from the Gibraltar Port Authority when they were approached by the Spanish patrol boat Tornado.
Radio recordings show the crew of the Tornado telling the ships to “leave Spanish territorial waters”, according to The Times.
The ships did not obey the warship, according to reports, which was soon confronted by Royal Navy boats.
“The Royal Navy deployed a launch and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat to the scene,” the Gibraltar government reported in a statement.
“After being challenged by the Royal Navy, the Spanish warship sailed slowly along the Gibraltar coast with its weapons uncovered and manned.”
“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 in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” a spokesman for the Gibraltar government added.
“It seems there are still some in the Spanish navy who think they can flout international law.”
The British Overseas Territory, known colloquially as the Rock, has been in British possession since 1704 — predating the founding of the United Kingdom itself by roughly three years — and was ceded by the Spanish “in perpetuity” in 1713.
The people of the Rock have voted overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining their link to the United Kingdom in two public referendums, choosing British sovereignty over Spanish sovereignty by 99.64 percent to 0.36 in 1967, and rejecting a deal on so-called “co-sovereignty” or “shared sovereignty” by 98.97 percent to 1.03 percent in 2002.
Spain, cheered on by the European Union, has sought to use British prime minister Theresa May’s apparent weakness in the Brexit negotiations as an opportunity to revive its old claims on Gibraltar — but has received a cool reception in the British territory, despite its having voted heavily to Remain in the European Union in 2016.
“We are not looking to remain as part of the European Union as being partly Spanish,” said Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo said, in 2017.
“The only way that somebody could describe that offer as generous would be to be entirely disingenuous.
“This is the generosity of the predator that thinks that its prey is finally prone and it’s going to take the price it’s been seeking to extract for the past 300 years,” he added.
“Neither the people of the United Kingdom nor the people of Gibraltar are a prey that is on its knees, seeking any generous offer from the people of Spain.”