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  • Pedestrians cross the tarmac at Gibraltar International Airport, near the border with Spain in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain.

    Pedestrians cross the tarmac at Gibraltar International Airport, near the border with Spain in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 February 2019 (9 hours 30 minutes ago)

With Brexit on the horizon, tensions have been aroused at the port of Gibraltar with the Spanish and British navy having a brief stand-off.

In the latest display of tensions over the fate of the strategic port of Gibraltar as Brexit approaches, a Spanish warship tried to order commercial ship to leave anchorages in British waters near Gibraltar but was challenged by the British navy and sailed away, according to Gibraltan officials.

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The Spanish ship tried to order ships to leave their anchorages on the eastern side of the Rock, but the ships stayed in position, Gibraltar’s authorities said. After being challenged by the British navy, the Spanish warship then sailed slowly along the coast with its weapons uncovered and manned.

Spanish authorities did not immediately comment on the issue.

Tensions over territorial waters around the peninsula in southern Spain often erupt between Spanish and British vessels. Gibraltar, overlooking the strait between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, has been ruled by Britain since 1713.

The status of its 30,000 residents has been gaining attention as Britain’s exit from the European Union approaches on Mar. 29, raising questions about free movement across its land and sea borders with Spain.

“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,” a spokesman for Gibraltar said.

Spain has already secured a right of veto over whether future Brexit arrangements can apply to Gibraltar. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez held up an agreement on Britain’s withdrawal treaty in November over the issue and said Spain would seek joint sovereignty after Britain leaves the EU.

“There was no incursion on this occasion. We are certain of our sovereignty over the whole of Gibraltar, including British-Gibraltar territory waters, and any incursions are a violation of sovereignty, but not a threat to it,” a spokesperson for the British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday.

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