Falklands analogy sparks Brexit war of words over Gibraltar

Posted April 09, 2017

Among the negotiation lines of the Brexit (British withdrawal from the Community club) the European Union established that Madrid would have veto power over any agreement reached between London and Brussels over the disputed rock, located in the southern point of the Iberian península.

On Tuesday, Gibraltar's government published a video on Twitter of the Spanish Navy patrol ship Infanta Cristina in the sea off the territory and accused it of carrying out an "illegal incursion" into its territorial waters.

Spain has long disputed British sovereignty over the land, which has been held by the United Kingdom since 1713 and now has the status of a British overseas territory.

"Someone in the U.K.is losing their cool and there's no need for it", Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis also cautioned, when asked about Howard's comment.

Last November, in response to a question from Conservative peer Lord Patten in the House of Lords, the British government said there had been 434 incursions by Spanish state vessels into Gibraltar waters in the 12 months to October 31, 2016, the most recent data available.

Spain has repeatedly called for the return of Gibraltar, a strategically important outpost at the entrance to the Mediterranean, as it views British sovereignty there as an affront to its territorial integrity.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says Gibraltar's status can only be changed by the territory's people and United Kingdom citizens, as the enclave becomes an issue in Brexit negotiations.

The latest spat arose from the EU's Brexit negotiating guidelines which leave Britain and Spain to thrash out what agreements will apply to Gibraltar.

Prime Minister May, though, seemed to laugh off questions about whether the United Kingdom would take military action against Spain to defend Gibraltar, telling reporters on Monday that she prefers "jaw-jaw" to "war-war".

Michael Howard, a former leader of the ruling Conservative Party, noted on Sunday that former PM Margaret Thatcher took military action after Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands 35 years ago and said current leader May would "show the same resolve" on Gibraltar.

"We back this up by making formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish government".

However, Downing Street also said Monday that they will not be sending a task force to Gibraltar. "They haven't made the best of their economy", he said, noting the 50% unemployment in Spain for those under 40, versus "zero point zero-zero something" in Gibraltar.

"What we are doing with all European countries in the European Union is sitting down and talking to them. That will not change", said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

This now comes to the seventh incident of this kind, just this year.

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