Royal Navy FACE-OFF: Spanish warship sparks chaos in UK waters during military exercise

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Three Royal Navy squadron ships were being trained on the water near Europa Point, Gibraltar’s southern-most point by mine hunting vessels HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance when a Spanish warship entered the contested waters.

As training was announced, foreign mariners in Gibraltar had been told to stay away as there would be “surface exercise with high speed maneuvering and blank firing”.

According to reports, the Spanish Navy patrol ship Rayo P-42 sailed into the British-owned waters but did not interfere with their training.

The Spanish warship was escorted from the waters after the exercise was completed.

It is believed to be the 18th time a Spanish vessel has entered into the British territory this year.

As well as the Spanish warship, a Guardia Civil boat was later spotted in the water and was moved to Marbella by HMS Sabre.

A statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “Incursions are a violation of sovereignty, not a threat to it.

“We have no doubt about our sovereignty over Gibraltar.

“The Royal Navy challenges all incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, and did so on this occasion.”

The FCO said all incursions into Gibraltan waters are raised with the relevant Spanish authorities.

Last month, the Royal Navy escorted the Spanish Patrol Vessel P43 Relámpago out of the British territory.

On May 6, the Spanish vessel Infanta Cristina entered the disputed territory.

HMS Chiddingfold and Penzance were training HMS Sabra and Scimitar along with two PAC24 RHIB vessels, which are used for rescue, anti-piracy and counter-narcotics missions.

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Both HMS Chiddingfold and Penzance are set to sail to the Middle East to join Operation Kipion for the extra three years, according to reports.

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory but is also the subject of an irredentist territorial claim by Spain.

It was captured in 1704 and by 1713 the Spanish Crown formally ceded the territory to the British Crown.

Spain attempted to recapture the territory twice.

In 2002, the people of Gibraltar reacted a joint sovereignty proposal on which Spain and the UK were said to have reached “broad agreement”.

The British government now refuses to discuss sovereignty without the consent of the Gibraltarians.

Discussion of Gibraltar were raised after the UK formally left the European Union in January.

Under the terms of the UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, Spain has a veto over Gibraltar benefiting from any future trade and security agreement between the Government and Brussels.

During the divorce talks, the Spanish government was often accused of using Brexit to snatch back the territory.

EU affairs minister Juan Gonzalez-Barba said an agreement on Gibraltar’s future relationship with Spain and the EU “will not be easy” given Madrid’s “unrenounceable sovereignty aspirations”, potentially sparking panic on the Rock.

The Spaniard said the UK’s decision to quit the bloc had been motivated by similarly strong urges for sovereignty.

Speaking to the Spanish parliament’s EU committee, he added this would make it “enormously difficult” to reach an agreement with the British Government.

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